— ' ^>
THE TALE OF A FIELD HOSPITAL
Surgeon Extraordinary to H.U. the Queen : Si:; rgeoi •.-in-Ordinary to H.R.If. tkt
D::keofYork ; Consultin ■ London Hospital:
[.ate Consulting Surgeon -zvitl: IJ.?.T. Troops in S-ttt-'i Afrtta
W>th 14 Illustrations from Original Photographs
Cassell and Company, Limited
LONDON, PARIS, NEW YORK &• MELBOURNE
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
First Editiou October 1900.
Reprinted November 1000, December 1900.
In this little book some account is given of a field
hospital which followed for three months the Ladysmith
Relief Column, from the time, in fact, that that column
left Frere until it entered the long-beleaguered town.
The fragmentary record is based upon notes written da}'-
by day on the spot. Some of the incidents related
have been already recounted in a series of letters pub-
lished in the British Medical Journal, and certain
fragments of those letters are reproduced in these pages,
or have been amplified under circumstances of greater
The account, such as it is, is true.
It may be that the story is a little sombre, and
e> possibly on occasions gruesome; but war, as viewed from
the standpoint of a field hospital, presents little that is
It appeared that some interest might attach to an
account of the manner in which our wounded faced
their troubles, and of the way in which they fared, and
under the influence of that impression this imperfect
sketch has been written.
I. — The Field Hospital ......
IV. — The Morning of Colenso ....
VI. — Inside an Operation-Tent ....
VII. — The Surgeons of the Field Hospitals
IX. — The Hospital Train at Colenso
XII. — The Sign of the Wooden Cross
XIII. — The Men with the Spades.
XV. — Spearman's Farm ......
XVI. — The Hospital at Spearman's
XVIII. — After Spion Kop
XIX. — Tub Story of the Restless Man
XX.—" Did We Win ? " .
XXI. — The Fighting Spirit
XXII. — The Body Snatchers
XXIII.— Seeing Them Off
XXIV. — A Funeral at Spearman's
XXV. — Absent-mindedness .
XXVI. — At Chieveley Again
XXVII. — A Journey to Ladysmith
XXVIII.— A Straggler .
XXIX. — How a Surgeon Won the Victoria Cross
XXX. — " Sic transit gloria mundi " .
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
No. 4 Stationary Field Hospital at Frere . . .To face p. 2
The Kitchen of the Field Hospital . . . . „ ,, 4
The cross-shaped ditch cut in the ground takes the kettles according
to the way of the wind. The ambulance train has drawn up.
The Hospital Dog ........,,,, 8
The Operation-Tent of No. 4 Field Hospital . . ,, „ 20
A Hospital Train being loaded up at Frere . . . ,, „ GO
My Waggon, Scotch Cart, and Kaffir Boys . . . „ „ 48
The Field Hospital on the March. Outspanned at
Pretoritjs' Farm . . . . . . . ., ,, 52
No. 4 Field Hospital at Spearman's Farm. Surgeons
and Nurse ........„„ 56
An Ambulance Waggon ....... ., „ 64
A Funeral at Spearman's „ „ 84
A Brigade marching out at Chieveley for the Attack
upon Pibters. Passing the Field Hospital . „ ,, 92
" Hairy Mary " at Chieveley . ... . . . „ „ 94
A Straggler .........,,,, 102
The Battlefield of Colenso ......„„ 104
In the foreground is the body of one of Col. Long's horses. To the
1 i'_'lit is the Mimosa Grove in which the Boers hid. The flat-topped
hill to the left is Grobler's Kloof.
TALE OF A FIELD HOSPITAL
HIE FIELD HOSPITAL
HE Field Hospital, of which some account
is given in these pages, was known as
" No. 4 Stationary Field Hospital." The
term "stationary" is hardly appropriate,
since the Hospital moved with the column,
and, until at least the relief of Lady-
smith, it followed the Headquarters' camp.
The term, however, serves to distinguish " No. 4 " from
the smaller field hospitals which were attached to the
various brigades, and Avhich were much more mobile
and more restless.
At the commencement of the campaign the capacity
of the Hospital was comparatively small. The officers
in charge were Major Kirkpatrick, Major Mallins, and
Lieutenant Simson, all of the Koyal Army Medical
Corps. These able officers — and none could have been
more efficient — were, I regret to say, all invalided as
the campaign progressed.
Before the move was made to Spearman's Farm the
Hospital was enlarged, and the staff was increased by
2 THE FIELD HOSPITAL.
the addition of eight civil surgeons It is sad to report
that of these two died in the camp and others were
invalided. No men could have worked better together
than did the army surgeons and their civilian colleagues.
The greatest capacity of the Hospital was reached after
the battle of Spion Kop, when we had in our tents about
Some account of the nurses who accompanied the
Hospital is given in a section which follows.
The Hospital was well equipped, and the supplies
were ample. We carried with us a large number of
iron bedsteads complete with mattresses, blankets, and
sheets. These were all presented to the Hospital by
Mr. Acutt, a generous merchant at Durban. It is need-
less to say that they proved an inexpressible boon, and
even when the Hospital had to trust only to ox trans-
port, all the bedsteads went with it.
The ladies of the colony, moreover, worked without
ceasing to supply the wounded with comforts, and " No.
4 " had reason to be grateful for their well- organised
The precise number of patients who were treated in
the Hospital is no doubt recorded in the proper quarter,
but some idea of the work accomplished may be gained
from the fact that practically all the wounded in the
Natal campaign — from the battle of Colenso to the relief
of Ladysmith — passed through No. 4 Stationary Field
Hospital. The exceptions were represented by the few
cases sent down direct by train or ambulance from the
smaller field hospitals.
No. 4 STATIONARY FIELD HOSPITAL AT
Face p. :■
T was from Frere Camp that the army
under General Buller started for the
Tugela River, and the Hospital pitched
its tents in that camp on the evening of
Monday, December 11th, 1899. We went
up from Pietermaritzburg by train. The
contents of the trucks were soon emptied
out on the line, some little way outside Frere Station, and
close to the railway the Hospital was put up. That night
we all slept under canvas — many for the first time — and
all were well pleased that we had at last arrived at the
Frere is merely a station on the line of rail which
traverses Natal, and as it consists only of some three or
four houses and a few trees it can hardly be dignified by
the name of hamlet. Frere is simply a speck — a corru-
gated iron oasis — on the vast undulating plains of the
veldt. These plains roll away to the horizon, and are
broken only by kopjes and dongas and the everlasting
On the way towards Ladysmith are a few kopjes of
large size, from any one of which the line of the Tugela
can be seen, with the hills beyond, occupied by the Boer
4. MERE GAMP.
entrenchments, and over them again the hills which
dominate Ladysmith. On the way towards Estcourt
winds a brown road, along which an endless train of
ox-waggons rumble and are lost in the wilderness of the
The river which is reputed to " run " through Frere
lias long since ceased to run. The water is retained by
certain dams, and the pools thus formed are uninviting.
The water is the colour of pea-soup, and when in a glass
is semi-opaque and of a faint brownish colour. The
facetious soldier, as he drinks it, calls it " khaki and
In the lowest pool, immediately above the iron railway
bridge which has been blown up by the Boers, Tommy
Atkins bathes with gusto in what is seemingly a light-
coloured mud. Here also he washes his socks and his
The centre of the camp is the railway station, and that
of Frere is the smallest and most unpretending that any
hamlet could pretend to. It is, however, crowded out of
all reason, and its platform of hard earth is covered with
boxes and baggage and sacks and saddles in as much
disorder as if they had been thrown in panic from a
burning train. Between the little goods shed and the
little booking-office are several stands of rifles. A sentiy,
proud apparently in his covering of dust, is parading one
end of the platform, while at the other end a motley croAvd
of perspiring soldiers are filling water-bottles at the tank
which supplies the engine. In the waiting-room a tumbled
mass of men are asleep on the floor, while on a bench
THE KITCHEN OF THE FIELD HOSPITAL.
The cross-shaped ditch cut in the ground takes the
kettles according to the way of the wind. The
amiulance train has drawn up.
FiWi p. A.
FREBE GAM]-. 5
in front of it two men-of-war's men are discussing an
English paper six weeks old.
Outside the station are ramparts of provision boxes
and cases of ammunition, and iron water cisterns and
mealie bags, and to the fragments of a railing which
surrounds the station horses, of all kinds and in all stages
of weariness, are tied.
A ragged time-table on the wall, dealing with the train
service to Pretoria, and with the precise hour of the arrival
of the trains there, seems but a sorry jest. The station-
master's house has been looted, and the little garden in
front of it has been trampled out of being, save for two or
three red geraniums which still bloom amidst the dirt.
This house is, for the time, the general's headquarters, and
before it waves the Union Jack.
When we reached the camp it was stated that 30,000
men were under canvas. A camp of this size must of
necessity present an endless scene of bustle and movement.
Nothing seemed at rest but the interminable array of
white tents and the rows of baggage waggons. Cavalry
would be moving in one direction and infantry in another.
Here a mounted patrol would be riding out or a couple of
scouts coining in. There would be a long line of Kaffirs
carrying bales and boxes to a temporary depot, and here
a troop of eager horses hurrying to the river to drink.
Gallopers would be seen in all directions, and everywhere
would be struggling teams of oxen or of mules enveloped in
clouds of dust and urged on by sweating men and strange
oaths, and by the shrill yells of the Kaffir drivers, whose dust-
dried throats gave out noises like the shrieks of parrots.
There was no shade of any kind, and the camp during
the day lay dry, dusty, parched and restless under a
blazing sun, but at night there was a cool wind and cheer}* -
camp fires, and a darkness which blotted out the dusty
roads, the dried-up river, the dismal piles of stores, and the
general picture of a camp in a desert of baked earth.
Every night a search-light was at work sending
despatches to Ladysmith, and almost every morning could
be heard the Boer guns thundering over that unhappy
The British soldier looked very smart in his khaki suit
when embarking at Southampton, but at Frere he showed
the effects of wear, and his tunic, his belt, his pouches, his
boots and his face, had all toned down to one uniform tint
of dirt colour. He was of the earth earthy. He was
unshaven. His clothes had that abject look of want of
" fit " that is common to clothes which have been slept in,
which have been more than once soaked through, and
which have more than once dried upon the body of the
THE HOSPITAL DOG.
ROMINENT among the personnel of the
Hospital should be placed " Durban," the
Hospital dog. He was a brindled bull
terrier of exceptional physique and in-
telligence, and the story about him was
that he was a refugee dog who had at-
tached himself to " No. 4 " at Durban, and
that for want of a better name he had been called after
that pleasant town.
He had a great love of adventure, and fell into the
life of a moving camp with gusto. His good temper
and his placid appreciation of a practical joke were
among his many excellent qualities. When the orderlies
were paraded on the platform of Pietermaritzburg Station,
previous to their being entrained for Frere, " Durban "
took his place in the ranks with no little dignity.
The orderlies were devoted to him and he to them,
and I have no doubt that, pampered and humoured in
every canine whim, he is with the Hospital still.
" Durban " had had a special collar made for him on
which was emblazoned the red cross and the name of
his company. Just before starting for Chieveley his
particular master made him a pair of putties, in which
8 THE HOSPITAL DOG.
his fore legs were enveloped. He was uncommonly
pleased with these embarrassing articles of clothing, and
was never tired of going round the camp to show them
to his many admirers. At Spearman's he was provided
with a travelling kit, consisting of a waterproof cape
with tAvo minute panniers on either side, marked with
the red cross, and furnished with unappreciated surgical
dressings. This exquisite outfit was with difficulty se-
cured in position, and in the early stages of a march
was sure to be found dangling beneath " Durban's "
His passion for bathing was only equalled by his
passion for catching flies, and when we reached the
Lesser Tugela he would join party after part} r on their
way to the river, and would bathe as long and as often
as he found anyone to bathe with.
He was useful, too, as a watch-dog, and performed no
mean services in connection with the commissariat de-
partment. Some sheep were given to the Hospital, and
for a day or two it was a problem as to how advantage
could be taken of this important supply of food. The
sheep, Avhen wanted for the kitchen, could not be caught,
and could not be shot, and so " Durban " was appealed
to in the difficulty. Accompanied by the cook, on cer-
tain mornings " Durban " made his way to the little
flock out on the veldt, and never failed to pull down a
sheep. He followed the cook and the sheep back to the
camp with the air of one who deserved well of his
THE HOSPITAL DOQ.
Fat\ p. 8.
THE MORNING OF COLENSO.
T daybreak on the morning of December
15th the Field Hospital was already
astir. While it was yet dark the silence
of the camp was broken in upon by the
rousing of the orderlies, by much slap-
ping upon the sides of silent tents, by
much stumbling over darkened tent
ropes, and by sudden calls of " Get up, you chaps,"
" Tumble out," " Chuck yourselves about." " Why don't
you wake a man up ? " cries out one peevish voice among
the recently roused. " Why don't you make a noise ? "
says another, in sleepy tones. " Is the whole camp afire
and is the Boers on us, or is this your idea of calling a
gentleman ? " mutters a sarcastic man, as he puts his
head out of the fly of his tent.
In a few minutes everyone in the camp is on the move,
for there is little needed to complete a toilet beyond the
tightening of a belt and the pulling on of a pair of boots.
All are in the best of spirits, and the collecting together of
goods and chattels and the preparing of a hurried break-
fast, proceed amidst infinite chatter and many camp
We are at last on the move. We are the last to go.
10 TEE MORNING OF COLENSO.
This is the day of the long expected battle, and we are to
push on to the front. The real fighting is to begin, and
there is not a man who is not possessed by the conviction
that the Boers will to-day be swept from the Tugela — if
they have not already fled — and that General Buller will
have a " walk over."
One cannot but be reminded, many times since, that
the advance to Ladysmith was always spoken of as a
" walk over."
Moreover, everyone is glad to leave Frere — dreary,
sweltering Frere. Since the column left it has become a
waste of desolation ; the very grass has been already worn
away, and there is nothing but an expanse of bald earth,
scarred with the landmarks of a camp that was, glistening
with empty meat and biscuit tins which flash in the sun,
and dotted over with a rabble of debris. The picturesque
cavalry camp, with its rows of restless horses, is now only
indicated by more or less formal lines of dirtier dirt.
The avenues and squares of white tents are gone, and
in their place is a khaki waste covered with the most
melancholy of refuse.
At the outskirts of great towns there is usually, in a
place or two, a desert plot of land marked off by dis-
reputable relics of a fence and trodden into barren earth
by innumerable untidy feet. If such a plot be diversified
with occasional ash heaps, with derelict straw, and with
empty tins and bottomless pots and pans, it will represent
in miniature the great camp of Frere after the column had
moved to the river.
Frere was indeed no longer Frere. It had become
THE MORNING OF GOLENSO. 11
suddenly quiet, and the depressed garrison left behind were
almost too listless to watch, with suitable jealousy, our
preparations for departure.
On this particular morning the sun rose gloriousl}\
Out of the gloom there emerged rapidly the grey heights
of the far-off Drachenbergs, and as the light of the dawn
fell full upon them, their ashen precipices and pinnacles
became rose-coloured and luminous ; and the terraces of
green which marked the foot of each line of barren cliff
seemed so near and so strangely lit, that many a man,
busy in the work of striking camp, stopped to gaze on
these enchanted mountains. The whole range, however,
looks chilled and barren — as barren, as solitary, as un-
earthly, as the mountains of the moon.
Before the peaks of the Drachenbergs were well alight
the boom of our great guns sounded with startling clear-
ness, and it was evident that the prelude for the battle had
In due course a train of goods waggons backed down to
the side of the hospital The tents and countless panniers,
boxes, sacks, and miscellaneous chattels of the hospital
were packed upon the trucks. Our instructions were to
proceed by train to Colenso, and to there unload and camp.
There was apparently no doubt but that the village by the
Tugela would immediately be in our hands. Early rumours
reached us, indeed, that the Boers had fled, and that no
living thing was to be seen on the heights beyond the
river. These rumours were soon to be discredited by the
incessant roar of cannon, and later by the barking of the
" pom-pom " and the minor patter of rifle firing.
12 TEE MORNING OF COLENSO.
Four nurses were to go with the train : the two who
had accompanied me from London, Miss McCaul and Miss
Tarr, and two army sisters from Netley, Sister Sammut
and Sister Martin.
While the train was being loaded the nurses waited at
the hotel or store. The hotel, a little unpretending bunga-
low, represented one of the three or four dwellings which
made up the settlement of Frere. It was kept by Mr. and
Mrs. Wilson, to whose hospitality we were, on this and other
occasions, much indebted. Mr. Wilson and his family were
excellent representatives of the many sturdy and loyal
colonists who are to be found throughout Natal. When
the Boers approached Frere they were compelled to fly to
the south, and when they returned to what had once been
a home, they found such a wreck of a house as only Boers
can effect. Everything had been looted that could be
looted, and what could not be removed had been ruthlessly
broken up. Even the books in the ample book-case had
been torn to pieces. The empty rooms were filled with
filth and wreckage, and nothing had escaped the obscene
hands of these malicious marauders. Every cupboard had
been torn open and, if possible, torn down ; every drawer
had been rifled of its contents ; and on the floor, among
fragments of broken chairs and crockery and discarded
articles of clothing, would be found a photograph of a child,
trampled out of recognition, or some small keepsake which
had little value but its associations. The Boers, indeed, do
not stop at mere looting, but mark their visits by fiendish
malice and by a savage mischievousness which would not
be unworthy of an escaped baboon.
THE MORNING OF COLENSO. 1:5
The train carrying the hospital and its possessions
moved on to Frere Station, where it took up the equip-
ment of officers and men. There was a passenger carriage
with one compartment, in which were accommodated the
nurses and three others. The officers, sergeants, and
orderlies rode on the piles of baggage which filled the open
The day was blazing hot, and thirst proportionate. The
heat oppressed one with the sense of something that had
weight. Any breeze that moved was heavy with heat.
At last we started for the actual front, full of expect-
ancy and in the best of spirits. The distance to Chieve-
ley is about seven miles across the veldt, across the
trestle bridge, and past the wreck of the armoured train.
The train moved up the incline to Chieveley very slowly
and as we approached the higher ground it struck us
all that the incessant artillery and rifle firing, and the
constantly repeated crack of the " pom-pom," were hardly
consistent with the much-emphasised " walk-over."
Outside Chieveley Station, the station of which we
were to see so much later on, the crawling train stopped,
and a galloper came up with a message requesting me
to go down to the battlefield at once. At the same
time Major Brazier-Creagh, who was in charge of the
hospital train, and who was always as near the front
as he could get, came up and told us that things were
going badly at Colenso, that we had lost several guns,
and that the wounded were cominGr in in scores.
THE HOSPITAL UNDER THE RIDGE.
Y waggon and mules were already at
Chieveley when the train reached that
place, and I was able to start for the
scene of action without a moment's
From Chieveley the grass-covered
veldt slopes evenly to the Tugela and
to Colenso village, which lies upon its southern bank.
This slope, some few miles from Chieveley, is broken
by a long ridge, upon which the 47 naval guns were
placed. From this ridge the whole battlefield could
Under shelter of the ridge, and close to the great
guns, four little field hospitals were pitched, and here I
made my first acquaintance with the circumstances of
war. Each field hospital would be represented by a
small central marquee, which formed an operating and
dressing station, and a number of bell tents around it,
which could accommodate, in all, about one hundred
When I arrived the ambulances were already coming
in — the dreary ambulances, each one with a load of
suffering, misery, and death ! Each waggon was drawn
THE HOSI'ITAL UNDER THE RIDGE. L5
by ten mules and driven by a Kaffir, and over the dusty
hood of each the red cross flag waved in the shimmering
heat. They came along slowly, rocking and groaning
over the uneven veldt, like staggering men, and each
drew up at one or other of the little hospitals under the
ridge. Every ambulance carried a certain number of
wounded men who were well enough to sit up, and a
smaller number who were lying on stretchers — the "sit-
ting up " and " lying down " cases, as they were respec-
tively called. Those who could move themselves were
soon helped down from the waggon by willing hands,
while the stretchers were taken out by relays of trained
What a spectacle it was ! These were the very khaki-
clad soldiers who had, not so long ago, left Waterloo,
spick and span, amid a hurricane of cheers, and now
they were coming back to camp silent and listless, and
scarcely recognisable as men. They were burnt a brown
red by the sun, their faces were covered with dust and
sweat, and were in many cases blistered by the heat ;
their hands were begrimed ; some were without tunics,
and the blue army shirts they wore were stiff with blood.
Some had helmets and some were bare-headed. All
seemed dazed, weary, and depressed.
Their wounds were of all kinds, and many had been
shot in more places than one. Here was a man nursing
a shattered arm in the blood-stained rags of a torn-up
sleeve. There was another with his head bandaged up and
his face painted with black streaks of dried blood, holding a
crushed helmet beneath his arm like a collapsible opera hat.
16 THE HOSPITAL UXDEB THE TJBGE.
Some still gripped their rifles, or dragged tlieir bando-
liers along as they limped to the tents. Many were
wandering about aimlessly. All were parched with thirst
for the heat was extreme. Here a man with a bandaged,
bootless foot would be hopping along with the aid of his
gun, while another with his eyes covered up would be
clinging to the tunic of a comrade who could see his way
to the tents. One or two of those who were lying on
the ground were vomiting, while near by a poor fellow,
who had been shot through the lung, was coughing up
All around the operation-marquee men were sitting
and lying on the ground, waiting for their turn at the
surgeon's hands ; while here would be a great heap of
dusty rifles, and there a pile of discarded accoutrements,
tunics and boots, and elsewhere a medley of boxes,
panniers, canteen tins, cooking pots, and miscellaneous
baggage. A few helmets were lying about which had
probably dropped off the stretchers, or had been removed
from the dead, for some of them were blood-stained and
crushed out of shape, or riddled with holes.
The saddest cases among the wounded were those on
the stretchers, and the stretchers were lying on the
ground everywhere, and on each was a soldier who had
been "hard hit." Some of those on the stretchers were
already dead, and some kindly hand had drawn a jacket
over the poor dust-stained face. One or two were de-
lirious, and had rolled off their stretchers on to the
ground ; others were strangely silent, and at most were
trying to shade their eyes from the blinding sun. One
THE HOSPITAL UNDER THE MDGM 17
man, who was paralysed below the waist from a shot in
the spine, was repeatedly raising up his head in order
to look with persisting wonder and curiosity at limbs
which he could not move and in which he could not
feel. Here and there groups of dusty men, who had
been but slightly wounded, were sitting on the ground
together, too tired and too depressed even to talk, or
at most muttering a word or two, now and then, in a
Overworked orderlies were busy everywhere. Some
were heating water or soup over the camp lires ; others
were hurrying round to each wounded man with water
and bread. The majority were occupied in helping the
injured to the tents or were concerned in attempting to
relieve those who seemed in most distress.
The surgeons in their shirt-sleeves were working for
their lives. Some were busy in the operation-marquee,
while others were going from man to man among the
crowd upon the ground, giving morphia, adjusting limbs,
and hurrying each of the wounded into the shelter of a
tent with as much speed as possible. Yet, although the
whole ground seemed covered with stricken men, the
dismal ambulances were still crawling in, and far over the
veldt the red cross flag of other waggons could be seen
moving slowly up to the naval ridge.
Would this procession of waggons never end !
Besides the ambulances there was the Volunteer
Bearer Company, organised by Colonel Gallwey, C.B. The
men of this Company were now tramping in, in a long,
melancholy line made up of little groups of six slowly-
18 THE HOSPITAL UNDER THE KIDGE.
moving figures carrying a stretcher between them, and on
each stretcher was a khaki mass, that rocked as the
stretcher rocked, and that represented a British soldier
badly wounded, possibly dying, possibly dead.
Above the hubbub of the swarming hospitals was still
to be heard the boom of the accursed o-uns.
In the rear the whistle and puff of a train at Chieveley
sounded curiously out of place, and about the outskirts
of the hospital some outspanned oxen were grazing as
unconcernedly as if they were wandering in a meadow in
England. Over all was the blazing sun and the blinding
Late in the afternoon a thunderstorm passed overhead,
and when the rain came down the wounded, who were
lying on the grass, were covered over with the Avaterproof
ground-sheets which were used in the tents. This did
little to mitigate the grimness of the occasion. There
was, indeed, something very uncanny in the covered-up
figures, in the array of tarpaulins glistening with rain,
and beneath which some of the wounded lay motionless,
while others moved uneasily.
No pen, however, can fitly describe this scene at the
foot of the ridge. Here was a picture of the horrors of
war, and however accustomed an onlooker may have
been with the scenes among which a surgeon moves, few
could have wished other than that the circumstances of
this day would be blotted out of all memory. I could
not fail to be reminded, over and over again, of the
remark made by many who were leaving England when
I left, to the effect that they hoped they would reach
THE HOSPITAL UNDER THE RIDGE. 19
the Cape " in time for the fun." Well, we were in time,
but if this was "fun" it was humour of a kind too ghastly
If of this dismal scene there was much to be forgotten,
there was at least one feature which can never be forgot,
and that was the heroism with which the soldier met his
"ill luck." The best and the worst of a man, so far as
courage and unselfishness are concerned, come out when
he is hard hit, and without doubt each one of the wounded
at Colenso " took his licking like a man." Bravery in
the heat and tumult of battle is grand enough, but here
in the dip behind the gun hill, and within the unromantic
linos of a field hospital, was a display of grim pluck,
which showed itself only in tightened faces, clenched
teeth, and firmly knit fingers. Among the stricken crowd
who had reached the shelter of the hospital there was
many a groan, but never a word of complaint, never a
sign of whining, nor a token of fear. Some were a little
disposed to curse, and a few to be jocular, but they all
faced what had to be like men.
They were not only uncomplaining and unselfish, but
grateful and reasonable. There was no grumbling (no
" grousing," as Tommy calls it), no carping criticism.
As one man said, pointing to the over-worked surgeons
in the operation-tent, " They will do the best they can
for the blooming lot of us, and that's good enough for
IWSIDE AX OPERATION-TENT
1 i ■>• ii
1 -ft C
- — - .j
|HERE were four operation-marquees
pitched under the naval ridge on the
day of Colenso, one connected with each
of the field hospitals. There is little
about these marquees or about the work
done in the shadow of them that is of
other than professional interest. They
were crowded, and over-crowded, on December 15th, and
the surgeons who worked in them worked until they
were almost too tired to stand. Every preparation had
been completed hours before the first wounded man
arrived, and the equipment of each hospital was ample
and excellent. To my thinking, a great surgical emergency,
great beyond any expectation, was never more ably met
than was this on the day of the first battle.
The marquee is small. It accommodates the opera-
tion table in the centre between the two poles, while
along the sides are ranged the field panniers which
serve as tables for instruments and dressings.
It is needless to say that the operation-tent is very
unlike an operating-theatre in a London hospital, but
then the open veldt is very unlike the Metropolis. The
floor of the tent is much-trodden grass, and, indeed, much-
/~ ""• '"gl 9J&'
THE OPERATION -TENT OF No. 4 FIELD
Face p. 20.
INSIDE AN 0PERATI0N-T1 21
stained grass, for what drips upon it cannot be wiped
up. There are no bright brass water-taps, but there is
a brave display of buckets and tin basins. Water is
precious, more precious than any other necessity, for
every drop has to be brought by train from Frere.
There is little room in the tent for others than the
surgeon, his assistant, the anaesthetist, and a couple of
orderlies. The surgeon is in his shirt-sleeves, and his
dress is probably completed by riding breeches and a
helmet. The trim nurses, with their white caps and
aprons, who form the gentlest element in the hospital
theatre, are replaced by orderlies, men with burnt sienna
complexions and unshaven chins, who are clad in the
unpicturesque army shirt, in shorts, putties, and the
inevitable helmet or "squasher" hat. They are, however,
strong in the matter of belts, which vary from a leather
strap or piece of string to an elaborate girdle, worked,
no doubt, by the hands of some cherished maiden.
From the belt will probably be hanging a big knife or
a tin-opener, in place of the nurse's chatelaine, and from
the breeches pocket may be projecting the bowl of a
pipe. The orderly in a field hospital — who is for the
most part a " good sort " — looks a little like one of the
dramatis personcc of Bret Harte's tales, and is a curious
substitute for the immaculate dresser and the dainty nurse.
Still, appearances do not count for much, and the
officers and men of the Royal Army Medical Corps did
as sterling good work on December 15th as any body
of men could do, and they were certainly not hampered
by the lack of a precise professional garb.
22 INSIDE AN OPERATION-TENT.
The wounded are brought into the marquee one by
one. Not all are cases for operation, but all have to be
examined, and an examination is more easily carried
out on a table than on a stretcher or the bare ground.
Moreover, to make the examination painless, an
anaesthetic is usually required. I wonder how much
chloroform and morphia were used on that day, and on
the night and day that followed ! The drugs would fill
one scale of a balance in the other scale of which would
be found the dull weight of pain they were destined to
obliterate. The horrors of war are to some small extent
to be measured by the lists of the wounded and the
dead, but a more graphic representation would be pro-
vided by the hideous total of the drops of chloroform
and the grains of morphia which have come from the
The flies of the operation-marquee are wide open, for
the heat is intense, and access must be easy. As it is,
there is much mopping of brows and many " pulls " of
dirty lukewarm water from precious water-bottles. Un-
happily the scenes within the shadow of the canvas
cannot be quite hidden from those who are lying in the
sun outside waiting their turn. As one man after
another is carried in there is sure to be some comrade
on the ground who will call out as the stretcher goes
by : " Keep yer chivey up, Joe " ; " Don't be down on your
luck " ; " They will do you a treat " ; " Good luck to yer,
old cock, you won't feel nothing."
One instance of the limited capacity of the marquee
I may be pardoned for recounting. The amputation of a
IN8TDE AN OPEUATION-TENT. s.\
leg was in progress when the pressure of work was at
its height. Beneath the table at the time of the opera-
tion was the prostrate figure of a man. He had been
shot through the face. His big moustache was clotted
with blood, his features were obliterated by dust and
blood, his eyes were shut, and his head generally was
enveloped in bandages. I thought he was dead, and
that in the hurry of events he was merely awaiting re-
moval. The limb after amputation was unfortunately
dropped upon this apparently inanimate figure when, to
my horror, the head was raised and the eyes were
opened to ascertain the nature of the falling body. This
poor fellow was attended to as soon as the table was
free. I was glad to see him some weeks after in the
Assembly Hotel at Pietermaritzburg, hearty and well.
He was a gallant officer in a Natal regiment, and when
I recalled this gruesome incident to him, he owned that,
feeble as he was at the time, it gave him a " shake up."
THE SURGEONS OF THE FIELD HOSPITALS.
\ MONG the many officers of the R.A.M.C.
I must confess that nry strongest sym-
pathies are with those who are in charge
of the little field hospitals. These handy
hospitals have their own transport, and
move with the various brigades or divi-
sions. The officers who command them
have little comfort, little rest, the least luxurious mess,
and the hardest of work. They bear the brunt of the
campaign so far as the medical and surgical needs of
the Army are concerned. They must be always ready,
always at hand, prepared to be full of patients one day
and to be empty the next ; and those whose lives are
spent with them can certainly claim that they have " no
The officers in charge of these hospitals are picked
men, but as sound experience is necessary they are often
men who are no longer young, and Avho may claim that
they have already had their share of roughing it. They
are, perhaps, more than any others, the most exposed to
criticism. If anything goes wrong at the front a large
proportion of the blame falls upon them, and if all goes
well their names appear in no roll of honour.
THE SURGEON* OF TEE FIELD HOSPITALS. 25
No surgeon who saw these men could be other than
proud that he belonged to the same profession as they did.
Of their work at Colenso, at Spearman's Farm, and before
Pieters I can only say that it was, to my thinking, a credit
to the medical department of any army.
A PROFESSIONAL VISIT BY RAIL.
ITER a busy afternoon among the field
hospitals under the naval ridge, I returned
in the evening to Chieveley, in the hope,
now that the bulk of the work was over,
of getting something to eat. I had not
been at Chieveley long when an orderly
arrived with a letter to tell me that
Lieutenant Roberts had been brought in wounded, and to
ask me to go back to the naval hill at once. It was now
dark, and I had at that time no horse. However, the
hospital train was standing in the station, and to the
fertile brain of Major Brazier- Creagh, who was in charge
of the train, it occurred that we might detach the engine
and go down on it to the ridge, since the field hospitals
were close to the railway.
There was the difficulty, however, that the line was a
single line, and a water train had already steamed down
to the ridge and was expected back at any moment. It
was the simple problem of an engine on the one hand, and
of a train on the other, proceeding in different directions
at night on a single line of rail.
The case being urgent, the engine was detached and
we started. Major Brazier-Creagh and Captain Symonds
A PROFESSIONAL VISIT BY RAIL. 27
came with me. It so happened that we went tender first.
The railway line appeared to us to go up and down with
many undulations, and at the top of each rise Ave expected
to meet the water train. Fortunately the moon was
coming up, and the blackness which oppressed us was
lading a little. We proceeded slowly, with much whistling
and considerable waving of a red lamp. At last there was
made out the dim outline of the water train coming
towards us at a fair speed. We stopped, and there were
redoubled efforts in the direction of whistling, lamp waving,
and shouting. These exhibitions had an immediate effect
upon the water train, which, after some hysterical whistling,
stopped, and backed promptly out of sight. The driver
told us afterwards that he thought a whole train was
coming down upon him at full speed, and that he might
well have backed down into Colenso.
We got out some way above the ridge and walked on to
the field hospital I had so lately left. The gallant officer
1 came to see was comfortably bestowed in a tent, was
quite free from pain and anxiety, and was disposed to
sleep. From a surgical point of view the case was hopeless,
and had been hopeless from the first, and no idea of an
operation could be entertained. Our examination and our
discussion of the case with Major Hamilton, R.A.M.C,
under whose care the patient was, occupied some time, and
the engine had long since gone back to Chieveley. There
was nothing to be done but to sleep on the ground in the
open, and this we proceeded to do, lying down on the grass
outside the tent we had just visited. There was no hard-
ship in this, as it was a splendid night, and the full moon
A PROFESSIONAL VISIT BY UAH.
had risen and had flooded the whole country with a
As if by magic the restless, hurrying, motley crowd of
the earlier day had vanished. A cool breeze and pleas-
ant shadows had replaced the heat and the glare of the
sun; a gentle silence had blotted out the noise and the
turmoil; and of the scene of the afternoon there was
nothing left but the white tents gleaming in the moon,
the open veldt, and the shadow of the ridge.
THE HOSPITAL TRAIN AT COLENSO.
[HE battle of Colenso was fought on Friday,
December 15th, and on Saturday, the
16th, an armistice Avas declared for the
burying of the dead. Very early on
Saturday morning, while it was yet moon-
light, the hospital train backed down from
Chieveley and came to a stand as near
the field hospitals as possible. As soon as it was day-
light (and at this time of the summer the sun rose before
rive) the loading of the train commenced.
The rilling up of a hospital train is no easy business,
and affords a somewhat depressing sight.
The worst cases are dealt with first, and a lone 1 line
of stretchers soon began to pour from the hospital tents
to the railway. The stretchers are put down on the rail-
road close to the wheels of the train. On this particu-
lar morning it so happened that the carriages threw a
shadow on the side of the line towards the hospital, so
that the stretchers, if near the metals, were in the
Many of the wounded had had no sleep, and many
were developing some degree of fever. A lew had be-
come delirious, and were difficult to control. With the
30 THE HOSPITAL TEA IX AT GOLENSO.
stretcher parties would come a certain number of such
of the wounded as could walk, and very soon a not in-
considerable crowd was gathered in the shade of the
But what a crowd ! The same sunburnt men with
blistered faces, but now even a more motley gathering than
tilled the field hospitals the day before — a gathering
made piteously picturesque by khaki rags, blue band-
ages, casual splints, arm slings, e}^e bandages, slit-up
trousers, and dressings of all kinds. Here they came
crowding to the train, some limping, some hopping, some
helped along between two stronger comrades, some stag-
gering on alone. A man with a damaged arm assisting
a man with a bullet through his leg. A man stopping
on the way to be sick, cheered up by another with a
An untidy, sorrowful crowd, with unbuttoned tunics
and slovenly legs, with unlaced boots, with blood on their
khaki jackets and on their blue shirts and on their
stiffening dressings. The gentle hand of the nurse had
not as yet busied itself with this unkempt and unwashed
throng. There had been no time for washing nor for
changing of garments, and if the surgeon has had to cut
the coat and the shirt into rags, the wearer must wear the
rags or nothing : and as for washing, it is a sin to wash
when water is priceless.
The greater number of those who come to the railway
line are carried there on stretchers, but all who are well
enough to take any interest in the journey are eager not
to miss a place in the train.
A HOSPITAL TRAIN BEING LOADED UP AT
Face p. 30.
THE HOSPITAL TRAIN AT GOLENSO.
The business of getting the " lying down " cases into
the carriages is considerable, and everybody lends a hand,
the surgeons being the most active of any. The berths
in the train are placed one above the other, and the
room for manipulating stretchers is small. The equip-
ment of the train was very complete, and every luxury
was at hand, from hot soup to iced "lemon-squash," and
even to champagne. Many generous ladies in the Colony
had seen that the train should want for nothing, and
Major Brazier-Creagh took as much pride in his travelling
hospital as if he had built it himself.
Innumerable instances came under my notice of the
unselfishness of the soldier, and of his solicitude for his
friends in distress. It was by the side of this hospital
train that occurred an episode I have recorded elsewhere,
and which may well be described again. An orderly was
bringing some water to a wounded man lying on the
ground near me. He was shot through the abdomen,
and he could hardly speak owing to the diyness of his
mouth, but he said : " Take it to my pal first, he is worse
hit than me." This generous lad died next morning, but
his pal got through and is doing well.
Another poor fellow, who was much troubled with
vomiting, and who was indeed d}dng, said, as he was
being hoisted into the train, " Put me in the lower berth,
because I keep throwing up." How many people troubled
merely with sea-sickness would be as thoughtful as he
was ? He died not long after we reached Chieveley.
Lieutenant Roberts, whom I had visited at intervals,
went up by this train, and was placed in No. 4 Field
32 TEE HOSPITAL TRAIN AT GOLEKSO.
Hospital at Chieveley. Here a bedstead, with a comfort-
able mattress and white sheets, was waiting ready for
As the train moved off it was sad to note that a few
who had been brought down to the rail in the hope of a
place being found for them, had to be left behind, and
had to be carried back to the tents to await some other
means of transport.
THE HUMES AT CHIEVELEV.
HE train which brought up No. 4 Field
Hospital from Frere was stopped, as I
have already said, at Chieveley. The
tents and baggage were thrown out, and
with as much haste as possible the
hospital was pitched on the open ground,
close to the station. Before, however,
any more than a few tents could be put up the wounded
began to arrive. They came in all Friday evening, and
all Saturday, and all Saturday evening. The field hospitals
by the naval hill had soon been filled, and all cases
that could be sent on to Chieveley were sent there, while
as many as could go at once to the base were taken
down by the hospital train.
Saturday was a day of truce, but at sundown on
Saturday not only had all the wounded to be cleared
out from the field hospitals, but those hospitals them-
selves had to move, as, with the renewal of hostilities,
they would be in a place of danger. Chieveley was
therefore soon filled to overflowing.
There were three army surgeons with " No. 4 " whose
names I have already mentioned. They were reinforced
U THE NURSES AT CHIEVELEY.
by a small field hospital under the charge of Major Baird
and Captain Begbie.
Some of the wounded came up by train, and some by
ambulances or by waggons, but a very large proportion,
a proportion which included nearly all the serious cases,
were carried up on stretchers by hand. No mode of
transport is more comfortable than this, or is less fatiguing
to the patient, and the splendid organisation of volunteer
bearers and of coolie carriers enabled this means of
bringing up the wounded to be very largely made use
of. Certainly the stretcher-bearers were the means of
saving lives, and of sparing those they carried an infinite
amount of pain.
As seen at night the procession up to Chieveley was
doleful and mysterious. The long line of silent men
moving in clusters, each cluster with a stretcher and a
body in its midst. Stealing slowly and cautiously over
the veldt in the moonlight they all made for the two
white lights which swung over the hospital by the station.
The coolies carried their stretchers shoulder high, so
that the body of the man they bore was lit fitfully by
the moon as they passed along with absolutely noiseless
feet. The coolies themselves added no little to the un-
canny spectacle, for in the shadow beneath the stretcher
stalked a double row of thin bare legs, and by the poles
of the stretcher were the white or coloured turbans that
these men affect ; while here and there a sleek black head
glistened in the light.
There was but one house at Chieveley — the station-
master's house. It had been effectually looted after the
THE NURSES AT OHIEVELEY. 35
Boer fashion, but it would have done well as a resting-
place for the four nurses who came up with the hospital.
The house, however, had been taken possession of, and
the nurses had to contemplate either a night in the open
or in the waiting-room at the station. As this latter
room had been used as a stable by the Boers, it was
not in much request. It served, however, as a place
for the depositing of personal baggage and for the pre-
paring of such food as it was possible to prepare — chiefly,
indeed, for the making of tea.
The question of where to sleep was soon solved by the
necessities of the position. These ill-housed women, as a
matter of fact, were hard at work all Friday, all Saturday,
and all Saturday night. They seemed oblivious to fatigue,
to hunger, or to any need for sleep. Considering that the
heat was intense, that the thirst which attended it was
distressing and incessant, that water was scarce, and that
the work in hand was heavy and trying, it was wonderful
that they came out of it all so little the worse in the end.
Their ministrations to the wounded were invaluable and
beyond all praise. They did a service during those dis-
tressful days which none but nurses could have rendered,
and they set to all at Chieveley an example of unselfishness,
self-sacrifice, and indefatigable devotion to duty. They
brought to many of the wounded and the dying that
comfort which men are little able to evolve, or are uncouth
in bestowing, and which belongs especially to the tender,
undefined and undefinable ministrations of women.
The English soldier is as sensible of attention and as
appreciative of sympathy and kindness as is any other man
3t> TEE NURSES AT GHIEVELEY.
who is at the mercy of circumstances, and I can well be-
lieve that there are many soldiers — some of them now in
England, crippled for life — who will long keep green the
memory of the sisters at Chieveley.
Some weeks after Colenso I was at Pietermaritzburg,
and was looking up in the hospital wards certain cases
which had been attended to in " No. 4." Among them was
a paralysed man to whom one of the nurses had been very
kind at Chieveley. I found him comfortably bestowed, but
he was possessed of a handkerchief the extreme dirtiness of
which led me to suggest that, as he was now in a centre of
luxury, he should ask for a clean one. To which he re-
plied, " I am not going to give this one up ; I am afraid of
losing it. The sister who looked after me at Chieveley gave
it to me, and here is her name in the corner."
As the truce was over on Saturday, and as the Boers
might assume the aggressive and shell Chieveley and its
helpless colony, the order was given to break up the
hospital and get all the wounded away by train, and to
retire with the tents and equipment to Frere. This was
done on Sunday morning.
As soon as the wounded had left — and it was no light
matter getting them away — it was thought desirable that
the women should be at once got out of danger, and so
they were bundled down to Frere with little ceremony in
a mule waggon. As they had no hospital to go to (for
" No. 4 " did not arrive until the small hours of the
following morning) they took refuge in the hotel at Frere.
They had some food with them, albeit it was not of a kind
to attract the fastidious, and the four of them slept on the
THE NURSES AT CEIEVELEY. 37
floor of a looted and empty room, which even the kindly
heart of Mrs. Wilson could not render other than a dreary
resting place. This was their only "night in" in three
I had, I am bound to confess, the advantage of them
in the matter of ventilation, for I slept in a waggon.
SOME TRAITS IN THE MEN.
S I have already said, the wounded took
their turn of "hard luck" like men. A
few were sullen, a few relieved their
feelings by fluent but meaningless pro-
fanity, in which the Boers were cursed
with as much thoroughness as was the
Jackdaw of Rheims. The majority were
silent or said little. The tendency of most of the men
was to make the least of their wounds, and some of those
who were the worst hit were the most cheery. They were,
with scarcely an exception, unselfish, and were singularly
patient, considering that the exercise of patience is not
a marked quality in men.
They ministered to one another's wants with a tender
solicitude which was not marred by the occasional nn-
couthness of its method. There was a widespread belief
that tobacco was a panacea for all ills, and any man who
had the wherewithal to smoke shared the small luxury
with his mates. If there was only one pipe in a tent it
was kept circulating. One would see a man on one
stretcher trying to arrange a pillow for a comrade on the
next : the pillow in question being commonly made out
of a squashed helmet with a boot inside it. The man
SOME TBAIT8 IN THE ME* 30
in any tent who was the least disabled was never so
well pleased as when he was given something to do for
those who were under the same canvas with him. With
a pannikin and a spoon he would feed those who could
not feed themselves until they were glad to be rid of
the attention ; or he would readjust a dressing, or cut
off a boot, or get the dried blood from an exposed surface
with a never-wearying anxiety.
With few exceptions the men were honestly anxious
" not to give trouble." It was an article of faith with
them to " take their turn," and no man would try to
make out that his case gave him a claim for attention
over his fellows. Indeed, on the occasion of a visit,
the occupants of a tent were eager with one voice to
point out what they considered to be the worst case, and
to claim for it the earliest notice. The men of a tent
were, in the kindliest way, a little proud of having a
" real bad " case in their midst. When the curtain of
a tent is up the occupants whose heads are nearest to
the tent ropes can easily converse with those who are
similarly placed in the adjoining tent. Thus I heard
one man on the ground, whose head was nearly in the
open, call out to another head just in view on the floor
of the next tent : " We've a real hot 'un in along: with
us ; he's got 'it through the lungs and the liver both,
and the doctor has been in to him three times." To
which the other head replied : " That's nothing to a
bloke in here. He's been off his chump all night; his
language has been a fair treat, and he's had four fits.
We've had a night I don't think ' "
K) SOME TRAITS IN THE MEN.
Another article of faith with the soldier takes the
form of a grim stoicism under pain. Some of the
wounded endured the examination of their wounds with
Spartan pluck. They seemed to consider it above all
things essential that they should not cry out "until
they were obliged." One enormous Irishman with a
shattered thigh yelled out in agony as he was being
lifted upon the operating table to be examined. The
pain was evidently terrible and excuse enough for any
degree of exclamation. But he apologised quaintly and
profusely for the noise he made, urging as an excuse
that " he had never been in a hospital before." He ex-
pressed his regret much as a man would do who had
wandered into a church with his hat on and who ex-
cused himself on the ground that he had never been in
a church before.
Every patient took a lively interest in his own case,
and especially in the removal of any bullet which may
have lodged in any part of him. One ruddy youngster,
a Devonshire lad, had had a shrapnel bullet through his
leg, and the bullet could be felt, on the side opposite to
the point of entry, under the unbroken skin. He begged
that it should be taken out without chloroform, as he
wanted to see it come out and to keep it and take it
home. He sat up with his back against the tent pole
during the operation, and watched the cutting out of
the lead without a murmur. No doubt this Boer missile
will find a place in a corner cupboard in some cottage
among the delectable villages of Devon, and will be for
long the wonder and admiration of devoted women folk.
SOME TRAITS IN TUB MEN. 41
Among other traits one notices that the soldier clings
with great pertinacity to his few possessions, and
especially to his boots. When the haversack has been
lost, and when the tunic has been cut up to make its
removal more easy, or left behind because it is too
blood-stained, there is little remaining in which the
owner may bestow his goods unless it be in his boots.
There was one poor man I remember at Spearman's,
who was in great distress because, just as he was being
sent down to the base, he had lost his solitary boot. He
said it contained a puttie, a tin of jam, two shillings in
money, and a bullet that had been taken out of him.
These are no mean possessions.
The puttie also is not lightly discarded. If not used
as a gaiter it is useful for many other purposes, and
especially is it considered well to wind it round the
abdomen as a cholera belt, for the soldier has great
faith in anything in the way of a belt.
When the men were bathing together in hundreds
at Springfield, there was an opportunity of seeing such
variety in the matter of abdominal belts as could never
have been dreamed of. Some of these favoured garments
were mere shreds and rags, and were worn probably in
order to keep faith with some good soul at home who
had made her boy promise he would never leave off his
belt. Other binders were undoubtedly home-made, and
the work of anxious mothers and wives who believed in
red flannel and plenty of it. Some of the belts were
knitted and were made to be pulled on, but they had
shrunk so much from repeated wettings and had become
80ME TRAITS IN THE MEN.
so infantile in their proportions that the owner of the
garment had to get at least one comrade to help him
pull it over his hips. When it was at last in place it
quite constricted the body, and justified the comment of
one bather who exclaimed to his belted but otherwise
naked friend : " Well, ye've got a waist on ya, if nothink
else ! "
THE SIGN OF THE WOODEN CROSS.
FTER Colenso, No. 4 Stationary Field
Hospital returned to the same quarters
at Frere, and at Frere we remained until
January 13th, 1900, nearly a month. The
wounded who fell on the unhappy 15th
of December had been satisfactorily
disposed of, thanks to the admirable
arrangements made by the Principal Medical Officer,
Colonel Gallwey, C.B. Not a single wounded man was
left out on the field on the night of the battle. On
that particular Friday every man had been attended
to before midnight, and on the following Sunday all
the wounded who had fallen on the 15 th were comfort-
ably housed in one or other of the hospitals at the
Our tents, although emptied of the wounded, soon
began to be filled up with cases of sickness, and
especially with cases of dysentery. Those who presented
the slightest forms of the disease could be.. sent down
to the base, but when the type was severe the patient
did better with as little movement as possible. Those,
therefore, who remained in our lines represented a large
proportion of examples of serious illness.
44 THE SIGN OF THE WOODEN CROSS.
Provisions were ample, medical necessities abundant,
and the ladies of the Colony were infinitely kind in
forwarding to Frere comforts of all sorts. Our tents
were by no means filled, and yet, in spite of what may
be considered favourable circumstances, there were a
good many deaths.
Deaths mean the need for burial, and a little bury-
ing ground was marked off in the rear of the hospital,
close to the railway line. As weeks went by the little
enclosure needed enlargement, and so the engineers
came and fenced it round afresh with a wire paling,
and gave it a fit aspect of formality. The names of the
dead were indicated on tablets of wood, and now and
then the comrades of a man, or the survivors of the
tent he died in, would erect over the mound a wooden
These crosses were made usually out of provision
boxes, or perhaps from a whisky case, and many were
very admirably finished and very cleverly carved, and
many were curious of design. They represented long
hours spent in tedious hacking at a tough slab of wood
with a pocket knife, and, after that, infinite patience in
the cutting out of the letters of the dead chum's name.
Finish would be given to the lettering by means of a
These crosses will be found all over the land of the
war. Few of them will long survive the wind and the
rain and the blistering sun, and the hand of the Kaffir
who is lacking of fuel. So long, however, as they dot
the solitary veldt they will be symbols of the tenderest
THE SIGN OF THE WOODEN CROSS. 4S
spirit of good comradeship, of the kindly heart of men
who are supposed to be little imbued with sentiment,
and of that loyal affection for his friend which is not
among the least of the qualities of the British soldier.
Here and there some elaborate monuments with some
promise of permanency have been erected. There is one,
for example, in which the inscription is fashioned out
of empty cartridge cases stuck into cement. There is
another carved with some art out of stone.
I think, however, that those will sleep best who lie
beneath the wooden cross fashioned with labour and
some occasional dimness of eye by the pocket-knife of
an old "pal."
THE MEN WITH THE SPADES.
HE graves at Frere were dug by our own
men, or rather by a small fatigue party
from a regiment near by. Nearly every
morning they came, the men with the
spades. There were six of them, with a
corporal, and they came up jauntily, with
their spades on their shoulders and with
pipes in their mouths. They were in their shirt-sleeves,
and there was much display of belt and of unbuttoned
neck. Their helmets were apt to be stuck on their
heads in informal attitudes. They were inexpressibly
untidy, and they made in their march a loose, sham-
bling suggestion of a procession.
They came past my tent about breakfast time, and
every morning I wondered whether the men with the
spades would come, since, when they came, I knew that
a death had taken place in the night and wondered
who it was.
As in some way symbols of death, as elements in the
last services to be rendered to the dead, the men with
the spades filled me with great curiosity. They came
up cheerily, and when they reached the outskirts of the
hospital, the corporal would call out to any orderly he
THE MEN WITH THE SPADES. 47
saw : " Well, nipper, how many have we got to dig to-
day ? "
When they had finished, they went by my tent on
their way back to camp : still the same untid} 7 , sham-
bling lot ; still, as a rule, smoking, and still with the
appearance of being infectiously cheerful.
I know well enough, however, that there was little
cheeriness among these men with the spades. They
were dull enough in their inmost hearts. The soldier
is much impressed by a burying, and by the formalities
which surround the dead. And as he knows he must
not "give way" he is prone to cover his easily stirred
feelings by an attempt at a " devil-may-care " attitude,
and by an assumption of rollicking indifference. It is,
however, a poorly executed pretence, and it needed no
exceptional acumen to see that in reality no small
shadow of unhappiness followed the little shuffling pro-
cession, in spite of their pipes and their jauntily posed
helmets and their laboured jokes.
If a soldier's grave is to be dug by sympathising
hands, let it be dug by the hands of these very men
with the spades.
N Friday, January 12 th, Sir Red vers
Buller left Frere, and on the following
day we took our second departure from
that place. The movement was to be to
Springfield, some eighteen miles across
the veldt. No. 4 Field Hospital was
now to leave the railway, and trust to
transport by oxen and mules. The hospital was equipped
to accommodate a minimum of three hundred beds, and
was made up of sixty tents and ten marquees. The rank
and file of the RA.M.C. numbered eighty-eight non-
commissioned officers and men ; the staff was represented
by three army surgeons, nine civil surgeons, the two army
sisters who had worked at Colenso, and my remaining
nurse, Miss McCaul. The other nurse, Miss Tarr, who
came out with me, was at Maritzburg, desperately ill
with dysentery. She nearly lost her life, and was scarcely
convalescent when the time came for us to return to
England. Her unexpected recovery was largely due to
the skill of the doctor who looked after her (Dr. Rochfort
Brown, of the Assembly Hospital), and to the extraordinary
attention of those who nursed her, and especially to the
kindness of a lady who was waiting at Pietermaritzburg
g»»yv .•■" ■■■■■■v> ■••«
MY WAGGON, SCOTCH CART, AND KAFFIR
.Fcic. p. 4S.
to join Tier husband, then locked up with his regiment in
The three nurses kept . with the hospital, and did as
good work at Spearman's Farm, after Spion Kop and
Vaal Krantz, and at Chieveley, after Pieters, as they did
on the occasion of Colenso. They had no easy time, for
from the day we began at Frere until the lull after
Ladysmith we pitched the hospital no less than six times ;
viz., twice at Frere, twice at Chieveley, once at Spearman's,
and once at Springfield.
Our train was composed of sixteen ox waggons, each
with sixteen oxen, so that the number of oxen employed
was over 260. There were besides five ambulances, each
drawn by ten mules. The transport provided me consisted
of a small covered waggon, a Scotch cart, sixteen mules,
a conductor on horseback, four Kaffir " boys," a groom,
and my own horse and man servant.
On the occasion of our leaving Frere on January 13th,
we were roused at 3 a.m., while it was yet quite dark,
and while the Southern Cross was still ablaze in the sky.
All the tents were struck by the ungenial hour of 4 a.m.
Packing up and the circumstances of removal were con-
ducted with difficulty, and no little confusion. The ox
teams were lying about, and only a precarious light was
furnished by the lanterns we carried. It required no
exceptional carelessness to allow a wanderer in the camp
to fall, in the course of a few minutes, over a prostrate
ox, a rolled-up tent, a pannier, a pile of cooking pots, or
a derelict saddle. When the dawn came an agreeable sense
of order was restored, and Ave started on the march at 5 a. in.
There was a splendid sunrise, and the day proved a
glorious one, although it was painfully hot. The road was
a mere track across the veldt, which had been worn
smooth in some places and cut into ruts in others by the
hundreds of waggons and the great array of guns which
had already passed over it.
"No. 4" formed a long convoy by the time the last
waggon had rumbled out of Frere. The pace was very
slow, for the ox moves with ponderous lethargy. The
surgeons rode by the side of the train, the sergeants and
the orderlies walked as they listed, and the nurses rode in
ambulances, to the great shaking of their bodies. With
us were a hundred coolies, who were attached to the
hospital for camp work. They were a dismal crowd as
they stalked along with their thin bare legs and their
picturesque tatters of clothing, with all their earthly
possessions in bundles on their heads, and with apparently
a vow of funereal silence in their hearts.
The heat soon became intense, and the march blank
and monotonous. There were ever the same shadeless
veldt, the same unending brown road, relieved by nothing
but an occasional dead horse or mule ; the same creeping,
creaking, wallowing waggons, the never-absent perspiring
Kaffirs, the everlasting cloud of dust, and over all the
blazing sun that neither hat nor helmet could provide
At 7.30 a.m. we reached a spot on the veldt known
as Pretorius' Farm. It was marked by what was called,
with reckless imagery, a stream, but which was repre-
sented by a wide and squalid gutter filled with stagnant
THE UfARCHlWt. 51
water which would have done no discredit to that of
the lower Thames. Here we outspanned, and here we
These breakfasts under the dome of Heaven are not
to be looked back upon with rapture. Picnicking is an
excellent relaxation in England, but a picnic without
shade, without cooling drinks, without pasties and salads,
and jellies and pies, without white tablecloths and bright
knives, without even shelter from incessant dust, lacks
much. Tinned provisions are, no doubt, excellent and
nourishing, but oh, the weariness of them ! And oh, the
squalor of the single tin mug, which never loses the taste
of what it last had in it ! And oh, the meanness of the
one tin plate which does duty for every meal, and every
phase of it ! Perhaps of all unappetising adjuncts to a
breakfast the tin of preserved milk, which has been
opened two days and is already becoming disgustingly
familiar, is the most aggressive. The hot climate and
the indefatigable ant and the fly do little to make the
items of a meal attractive.
What does not rapidly decompose promptly dries up.
On one occasion a roasted fowl was brought up reverently
to Frere in a tin box, but when it came to be eaten it
had dried into a sort of papier mdche roast fowl, and was
like the viands which are thrown at the police at panto-
mimes. We brought many varieties of preserved food
with us, and of much of it the question could not fail to
arise as to whether it had ever been worth preserving.
Many had experience, too, of the inventive art of the
shopkeeper as shown in the evolution of canteens and
62 TEE MABCHIN'i.
pocket table knives. The canteen, when unstrapped,
tends to fall into a hundred parts, and can never be put
together again. It is a prominent or generic feature of
most canteens that the kettle should look as little like
a kettle as possible, and that everything should pack
into a frying-pan. The pocket picnicking knife contains a
knife, a fork, a spoon, and a corkscrew. The fork runs into
everything and prevents the knife from being carried in
the pocket. The spoon and fork are jointed for more
convenient stowing, and at crises in a meal they are
apt to bend weakly in the middle and then to incon-
tinently shut up.
The outspanning and the inspanning at Pretorius'
Farm occupied over two hours, and then the march was
resumed. A better country was reached as we neared
the river, and it was a pleasant sight to see the tumbling
stream of the Lesser Tugela, and to find in one valley
the pretence of a garden and a house among trees. This
was at Springfield, which place we reached at 2.30 p.m.
The march of some eighteen miles had therefore been
effected in two treks.
At Springfield the camping ground was the least
dreary of any the hospital had experience of, and the
proximity of the Lesser Tugela made bathing possible.
After a few days at Springfield we moved on to
Spearman's Farm, where we camped by the hill called
The return from Spearman's after Spion Kop and Vaal
Krantz was even more monotonous than the going forth.
The first journey was to Springfield, which was reached
THE FIELD HOSPITAL ON THE MARCH.
OUTSPANNED AT PRETORIUS' FARM.
/ : . O. 52.
THE MARCHING. 53
at sundown, and where we bivouacked for the night.
Springfield was left at dawn, and the next night was
spent in a bivouac at Frere. On the folloAving day, before
the sun was well up, we took the last stage of the march
and reached Chieveley. Here all enjoyed once more the
luxury of having tents overhead, for during the crawling
journey over the veldt we slept in waggons, on waggons,
or under waggons.
N a lonely valley under the mimosa-
covered heights which dominate the
Great Tugela is the lonely homestead
of Spearman's Farm. Those who built
it and made a home in it could have
had little thought that it would one day
ligure in the annals of history. The
farm house and the farm buildings and the garden were
enclosed by a rough stone wall, and upon this solitary
homestead the hand of the Boer had fallen heavily.
The house had been looted, and what was breakable in
it had been broken. The garden had been trampled out
of recognition, the gates were gone, the agricultural
implements had been wantonly destroyed, and the un-
pretending road which led to the farm was marked by
the wheels of heavy guns. The house was small and of
one storey, and was possessed of the unblushing ugliness
which corrugated iron alone can provide. The door
swung open, and any could enter who would, and
through the broken windows there was nothing to be
seen but indiscriminate wreckage. There was about the
little house and its cluster of outbuildings a suggestion
of the Old Country, and it wanted but a rick or so, and
a pond with white ducks, to complete the picture of a
small English farm. The garden had evidently been the
subject of solicitous care, and was on that account all
the more desolate, and what delight it ever had had
been trampled out of it by countless hoofs or obliterated
by the rattling passage over it of a battery or so of
At the back of the farm, and at the foot of a green
kopje, was a quaint little burial ground — little because it
held but two graves, and quaint because these were sur-
mounted by unexpected stone memorials of a type to be
associated with a suburban English cemetery. These
monuments were fitly carved, and were distinctly the
product of no mean town, and they were to the memory
respectively of George Spearman and of Susan Spearman.
For some undefinable reason these finished memorials, so
formal and so hackneyed in their design, appeared in-
appropriate and even unworthy of the dignity of the lonely
graves at the foot of the kopje. Some more rugged
emblem, free from artificiality and from any suggestion of
the crowded haunts of men, would have covered more
fittingly the last resting-place of these two pioneers. A
few trees, almost the only trees within sight, shaded the
little grave}^ard, and the trees and the monuments were
enclosed by a very solid iron railing. It was in the shadow
of this oasis that the dead from our hospital were buried.
THE HOSPITAL AT SPEARMAN'S.
HE hospital reached Spearman's on January
16th, and was pitched at the foot of the
hill, upon the summit of which the naval
gun was firing. We were, therefore, close
to those scenes of fighting which were to
occupy the next few weeks, and too close
for comfort to the great 47 gun, the repeated booming of
which often became a trouble to those who were lying ill
in the hospital.
The heights that dominated the southern bank of the
Tugela were very steep on the side that faced the river, but
on the side that looked towards Spearman's the ground
sloped gradually down into a wide plain which, like other
stretches of veldt, was dotted with kopjes and slashed with
dongas. Anyone who mounted the hill at the back of the
hospital would come by easy steps to an abrupt ridge,
beyond which opened a boundless panorama.
In the valley below this crest was the winding Tugela,
and just across the dip rose the solemn ridge of Spion
Kop. Far away in the distance were the purple hills
which overshadowed Ladysmith. If the crest were followed
to the right the ground rose until at last the summit
of the naval hill was reached, and here were the " handy
No. 4 FIELD HOSPITAL AT SPEARMAN'S FARM,
SURGEONS AND NURSE.
Face p. 06.
THE HOSPITAL AT HTEAEMAN'S. 57
men" and their big gun. From this high eminence a
splendid view was obtained of the country we desired
once more to possess. The Tugela glistened in the sun
like a band of silver, and over the plain and in and
out among the kopjes and round the dongas the brown
road wound to Ladysmith. The road was deserted, and
the few homesteads which came into view showed no
signs of life. At the foot of the hill was Potgieter's
Drift, while above the ford was a splashing rapid, and
below was the pont which our men had seized with such
The face of the hill towards the river was covered with
mimosa trees and with cactus bushes and aloes, and this
unexpected wealth of green almost hid the red and grey
boulders which clung to the hillside. Among the rocks
were many strange flowers, many unfamiliar plants, and
creeping things innumerable. This was a favourite haunt
of the chameleon, and I believe it was here that the hospital
chameleon was captured.
The quiet of the place, when the guns had ceased,
was absolute, and was only broken by the murmur of the
numerous doves which occupied the mimosa woods. The
whole place seemed a paradise of peace, and there was
nothing to suggest that there were some thousands of
grimy men beyond the river who were busy with the
implements of death. On looking closely one could see
brown lines along many of the hillsides, and these said
lines were trenches, and before the hubbub began men
in their shirt-sleeves could be seen working about them
with pickaxes and shovels.
TEE HOSPITAL AT SPEARMAN S.
I should imagine that few modem battles have been
viewed by the casual onlooker at such near proximit}- and
with such completeness in detail as were the engagements
of Spion Kop and Vaal Krantz, when viewed from the
high ground above our hospital.
The hospital, although now more than twenty-five miles
from the railway, was very well supplied with almost every
necessity and with the amplest stores of food. Bread was
not to be obtained, or only on occasion, when it would
be brought up by an ambulance on its return from Frere.
We had with us, however, our flocks and herds, and
were thus able to supply the sick and wounded with fresh
milk, and the whole hospital with occasional fresh meat.
We were a little short of water, and fuel was not over
abundant. As a result, the washing of clothes, towels,
and sheets presented the same type of problem as is
furnished by the making of bricks without straw. The
aspect of a flannel shirt that has been washed by a KafHr
on the remote veldt leaves on the mind the impression
that the labour of the man has been in vain.
Our stay at Spearman's was extended to three weeks,
and we dealt with over a thousand wounded during that
period, and I am sure that all those who came within our
lines Avould acknowledge that at " No. 4 " the}'' found an
unexpected degree of comfort and were in every way well
" done for."
On the Sunday after our arrival the wounded began to
come in. Thirteen only came from the division posted at
Potgieter's Drift, the rest came from Sir Charles Warren's
column. Increasing numbers of wounded came in every
THE HOSPITAL AT SPEARMAN'S.
day in batches of from fifty to one hundred and fifty.
They were all attended to, and were sent on to Frere as
soon as possible. All the serious cases, however, were kept
in the hospital.
THE TWO WHITE LIGHTS.
ANY of the wounded who were brought in
between the 18th and the 24th of January
came in after sundown. The largest
number arrived on the night of Monday,
the 22nd. It was a very dark night.
The outline of the tents and marquees
was shadowy and faint. The camp was
but the ghost of a camp. Here and there a feeble light
would be shining through the fly of a marquee, and here
and there an orderly, picking his way among the tent
ropes by the aid of a lantern, would light up a row or two
in the little canvas town. In the front of the camp was
the flagstaff, high up upon which were suspended the two
white lights which marked the situation of the hospital.
These lamps only sufficed to illumine a few of the tents in
the first line. The flaps of these tents Avere probably
secured and the occupants asleep.
It was a weary journey to the hospital, and one can
imagine with what eagerness the tired, hungry, aching
wounded would look ahead for the two white lights.
Rocking in pain on a crawling ox waggon, or jolted in the
rigid fabric of an ambulance, the way must have seemed
unending. Tumbling along in the dark, with no sound
THE TWO WHITE LIGHTS. 6]
but the creaking of the waggon and the incessant moans
of the shapeless, huddled figures who were lying in the
cart, the journey might well have been one never to be
forgotten. How many a time a tired head must have been
lifted up from the straw to see if there were yet any sign
of the two white lights. Would the journey never end,
and the pain never cease ? and was the broken limb to be
wrenched every time the blundering waggon pitched and
rolled ? And why had the man who had talked so much
ceased to speak — and indeed to breathe ? Would they
drive through the dark for eternity ? and would they never
come in view of the two white lights ?
It was a miserable sight to see these belated
waggons come in, and they would often rumble in all
night. They emerged one by one out of the darkness
and drew up in the open space between the two central
lines of tents, and between the few uplifted lanterns
held by the sergeants and the men on duty. After
they had deposited their load they moved away, and
vanished again into the night.
Some of the wounded in the waggons were sitting
up, but the majority were lying on the straw with
which the waggon would be littered. Some were asleep
and some were dead ; and by the light of the lanterns
the waggon seemed full of khaki-coloured bundles,
vague of outline, and much stained with blood, with
here and there an upraised bandage, and here and
there a wandering hand, or a leg in crude splints, or
a bare knee. And round about all a medley of rifles, boots,
haversacks, helmets, cartridge pouches, and tin canteens.
62 THE TWO WHITE LIGHTS.
What the journey must have been to many I could
gather from an incident of one of these dreary nights.
A waggon had reached the hospital lines, and was
waiting to be unloaded. A man with a shattered arm
in a sling was sitting up, and at his feet a comrade
was lying who had been very hard hit, and who had
evidently become weaker and less conscious as the
waggon had rolled along. The apparently sleeping
man moved, and, lifting his head to look at his pal,
who was sitting above him, asked wearily, for probably
the fiftieth time, " Don't you see nothing yet, Bill, of
the two white lights ? "
AFTER SPION KOP.
N Wednesday, January 24th, came the
terrible affair of Spion Kop. On the
previous day some hint of what was
expected was foreshadowed in the order
that an additional hundred bell tents
were to be erected in No. 4 Field
Hospital. These tents were obtained
from a brigade who were bivouacking, and were all
pitched by Wednesday afternoon. They represented
accommodation for an additional number of five hundred
wounded, and it was, therefore, evident that an im-
portant engagement was at hand.
On Thursday the wounded came pouring in, and
they came in the whole day and until late at night,
until the hospital was full. The number admitted on
that day was nearly six hundred. Those who were
deposited in the bell tents had to lie on stretchers.
All were provided with blankets. In spite of the
immense number of the wounded, they were all got
under shelter by Thursday night, and had had their
more serious injuries attended to, and were made as
comfortable as circumstances would admit. Some of
64 AFTER SPlON EOP.
the staff went round with water and food, and others
with morphia, while a third party made it their busi-
ness to see that every man was bestowed as comfort-
ably as extemporised pillows or change of posture could
make him. The pillows were represented by helmets,
or by the happy combination of helmet and boot, or by
haversacks or rolled- up tunics.
The volunteer ambulance corps and the coolie bearers
did excellent service. The larger number of the wounded
were on the top of Spion Kop. The path down was
about two miles, was steep, and in places very difficult.
The carriage of the wounded down the hill had all to be
by hand. From the foot of the hill to the hospital the
carriage was by ambulance waggons and in some cases
by bearers. All the stretchers had hoods. There was no
doubt that the wounded suffered much on account of
the tedious transport, but it was rendered as little dis-
tressing as possible.
The surgeons who went after the wounded on the
top of the hill told us that the sight of the dead and
injured was terrible in the extreme, the wounds having
been mostly from shell and shrapnel ; some men had
been blown almost to pieces. The weather on Wednes-
day was warm, but was not to be compared with the
intense heat on the day of the battle of Colenso. The
temperature was that of a hot summer's day in
England. Thursda}^ was fortunately cloudy and much
As to the wounded, there was the usual proportion
of minor injuries, but on the whole the wounds were
AN AMBULANCE WAGGON.
Face p. &4.
AFTER SPION KOP.
much more severe than those received at Colenso. This
is explained by the large number of wounds from
shell and shrapnel. The men, moreover, were much
exhausted by the hardships they had undergone. In
many instances they had not had their clothes off for
a week or ten days. They had slept in the open
without great -coats, and had been reduced to the
minimum in the matter of rations. The nights were
cold, and there was on nearly every night a heavy
dew. Fortunately there was little or no rain. The want
of sleep and the long waiting upon the hill had told
upon them severely. There is no doubt also that the
incessant shell fire must have proved a terrible strain.
Some of the men, although wounded, were found
asleep upon their stretchers when brought in. Many
were absolutely exhausted and worn out independently
of their wounds.
In spite of all their hardships the wounded men
behaved as splendidly as they always have done. They
never complained. They were quite touching in their
unselfishness and in their anxiety " not to give trouble " ;
but it was evident enough that they were much de-
pressed at the reverse.
The shell wounds were the most terrible and the
most difficult to treat. One man had most of his
face shot away, including both eyes. Another had the
forearm shot off and two fearful wounds of each thigh
dividing: the anterior muscles to the bone. In one
case a shrapnel had opened a main artery in the fore-
arm, and the man came down safely with a tourniquet
AFTER Sl'lON KOF.
on his brachial artery composed of a plug of cake
tobacco and the tape of a puttie. I cannot help think-
ing that this ingenious tourniquet was the work of one
of the " handy men."
THE STORY OF THE RESTLESS MAN.
HE following incident may serve to illus-
trate the often -expressed unselfishness
of the soldier, and his anxiety to do
what he can for a comrade in trouble.
Among the wounded who came down
from Spion Kop was a private, a native
of Lancashire, who had been shot in
the thigh. The thigh-bone was broken, and the fracture
had been much disturbed by the journey to the hospital.
The man was given a bedstead in one of the marquees - T
the limb was adjusted temporarily, and he was told to
keep very quiet and not to move off his back. Next
morning, however, he was found lying upon his face,
with his limb out of position and his splints, as he him-
self confessed, "all anyhow." He was remonstrated with,
but excused himself by saying, "But you see, doctor, I
am such a restless man."
The limb was more elaborately adjusted, and every-
thing was left in excellent position. Next morning,
however, the restless man was found lying on the floor
of the marquee, and in his bed was a man who had
been shot through the chest. The marquee was crowded
and the number of beds was few, and those who could
not be accommodated on beds had to lie on stretchers
TEE STORY OF TEE RESTLESS, MAN.
on the ground. The man who was shot in the chest
had come in in the night, and had been placed on the
only available stretcher. The restless man proceeded to
explain that the newcomer seemed worse off than he
was, and that he thought the man would be easier on
a bed, so he had induced the orderlies to effect the
change. The man who was shot in the chest died sud-
denly, and in due course the restless man was back in
his own bed once more.
It was not, however, for long;, for on another morning
visit the Lancashire lad was found on the floor again,
and again beamed forth an explanation that one of the
wounded on the ground, who had come in late, seemed
to be very bad and so he had changed over. The pres-
ent occupant of the bed was in a few days moved down
to the base, and the restless man was in his own bed
again. But not many days elapsed before he discovered
among the fresh arrivals an old chum who longed to lie
on a bed, and thus the good-hearted North-countryman
found himself once more on the floor.
The moving of a man with a broken thigh from a
bed to the ground and back again means not only such
disordering of splints and bandages, but much pain to
the patient and no little danger to the damaged limb.
So this generous lad was talked to seriously, and with a
faintly-veiled sternness was forbidden to give up his bed
again on any pretence. In the little attempt he made
to excuse himself, he returned once more to his original
joke and said, with a broad grin: "But you see, doctor,
I am such a restless man."
<• l>ll> WE WIN '.
NE instance of the indomitable pluck of
the British soldier deserves special notice.
A private in the King's Royal Rifles, of
the name of Goodman, was brought from
Spion Kop to No. 4 Field Hospital in an
ambulance with many others. He was
in a lamentable plight when he arrived.
He had been lying on the hill all night. He had not
had his clothes off for six days. Rations had been scanty,
and he had been sleeping in the open since he left the
camp. He had been struck in the face by a fragment
of shell which had carried away his right eye, the right
upper jaw, the corresponding part of the cheek and mouth,
and had left a hideous cavity at the bottom of which
his tongue was exposed. The rest of his face was streaked
with blood, which was now dried and black — so black that
it looked as if tar had been poured on his head and had
streamed down his cheek and neck. Eight hours had
been occupied on the journey to the hospital, and eight
hours is considered to be long even for a railway journey
in a Pullman car.
He was unable to speak, and as soon as he was settled
in a tent he made signs that he wanted to write. A little
70 "DID WE WINr-
memorandum book and a pencil were handed to him, and
it was supposed that his inquiry would be as to whether
he would die — what chance he had ? Could he have
something to drink ? Could anything be done for his
pain ? After going through the form of wetting his pencil
at what had once been a mouth, he simply wrote : " Did
we win ? " No one had the heart to tell him the truth.
His memorandum book — which is in my possession —
was used by him while he remained speechless in the
hospital, and certain of the notes he made in it, and which
are here appended, speak for themselves : —
" I haven't done bleeding yet."
" I've got it this time. I think my right eye is gone,
and I can hardly swallow."
" There are no teeth in front."
" It aches a lot."
" I'm lying the wrong way for my wound."
" I found the trenches."
" I've had all the officers over to see me."
" He is pleased, the doctor."
'• Did my haversack come with me ? If it did, there
is some tobacco in it. You can give it to them that
Poor Goodman, he had no mouth to smoke with him-
self. I am glad to say he reached England, is in good
health, and is as cheery as ever.
THE FIGHTING SPIRIT.
HE circumstances under which men enlist
in the Army are, no doubt, varied enough.
But not a few find their place under the
colours in obedience to that fighting
spirit which has for centuries been strong
in the hearts of the islanders from Great
Britain and Ireland. That spirit has
anyhow carried the colours over the world.
Among the wounded there were many who, to use
an expression common on the soldiers' lips, "were fed
up with the war : " they had had enough of it. There
were others who were eager to be at it again, who felt
that they had a score to wipe off; and even among the
desperately hurt there would be here and there a man
keen for revenge, and full of a passionate desire " to
have another go at 'em." These men, ill as they often
were, would describe with a savage delight, and in savage
language, the part they had played in the battle out
of which they had been finally dragged on a stretcher.
A little success, a victory however small, did much to
lessen the torment of a wound and to gild the contem-
plation of a life henceforth to be spent as a cripple.
One gallant lad had been paralysed by a Mauser at
72 THE FIGHTING SPIRIT.
short range, and had little prospect of other than perma-
nent lameness. He had been in the assault on Vaal
Krantz, had escaped without hurt until just towards
the end, and was shot as his victorious company were
rushing the last trench. After he had been examined,
and while he was still lying on his stretcher, I could not
avoid the remark, " This is a bad business." To which
he replied, "Yes, but we took the bally trench."
To many and many of the dying the last sound of
which they were conscious must have belonged to the
clamour of war, and it was well for those who heard, or
fancied they heard, above the roar of guns, the shout of
victory. One officer, dying in the hospital at Spearman's,
had his last moments made happy by the sound of battle.
He had sunk into a state of drowsiness, and was becoming
gradually unconscious. Every now and then the boom
of the 4 - 7 gun, firing from the hill above us, would
rattle through the tents, and with each shot a smile
would come over his face, and he would mutter with
great satisfaction, " They are getting it now." He re-
peated these words many times, and they were, indeed,
the last he uttered. Things were evidently going better
with the army in his dream than they were at that
moment with the real regiments by the river.
Some most vivid suggestions of what may pass through
the soldier's mind during the actual circumstances of war
were afforded by the utterances of more or less uncon-
scious men when passing under the influence of chloro-
form in the operation-tent. Before they fell into the
state of sleep, it was evident that the drug, with its
TEE FIGHTING SPIRIT. 73
subtle intoxicating power, brought back to the fading
sense some flash of a scene which may have been real,
but which was rendered lurid, spectral, and terrifying
by the action of the poison. Under this condition in-
coherent words of command would be uttered in rapid
tones, full of an agony of eagerness and haste ; and cries
for help would be yelled forth in what seemed to be
a maniacal frenzy. Many of the actual utterances that
escaped these unconscious lips, and gave glimpses of a
phantom war as seen through the vapour of chloroform,
were too fragmentary to be remembered, but two at
least were muttered with such an emphasis of horror
that I took note of them.
One of the wounded from Spion Kop had evidently
engraved upon his mind the hideous scene of slaughter
which the trenches on that hill presented. As he was
being anaesthetised it was apparent that in his dream he
was back again in the trenches, and was once more
among his dead and mangled comrades. The vision of
one wounded man especially haunted him and fascinated
him, and at last he screamed out : " There goes that
bloke again whose leg was shot away; blimy if he ain't
crawling now ! "
Another poor fellow had before his eye the spectre of
an awful kopje. His fragmentary utterances made vivid
the unearthly land he was traversing. All who stood by
could picture the ghostly kopje, and could almost share
in his anguish when he yelled : " There they are on the
hill ! For God's sake, shoot ! Why don't we shoot ? "
ARLY in the campaign Colonel Gallwey,
the P.M.O., organised a volunteer am-
bulance corps. Two thousand bearers
were wanted, and in a few days two
thousand were enrolled. Their duties
were to carry the wounded off the field,
to transport serious cases from the
advanced hospitals or dressing stations to the stationary
field hospital, and thence, if need be, to the railway.
There were to be twelve to a stretcher.
This corps contained examples of all sorts and con-
ditions of men — labourers, mechanics, "gentlemen," dock
loafers, seamen, dentists, a chemist or two, a lawyer
or two, tram drivers, clerks, miners, and shop assistants.
Many were refugees from the Transvaal, and the majority
had been thrown out of work of some kind or another
by the war. A chance of getting employment had, no
doubt, induced many to enlist, while probably the greater
number were attracted by a spirit of adventure, by a
desire to get to the front and to see something of the
pomp and circumstance of war.
They formed a strange company when they mustered
at Pietermaritzburg — a section of a street crowd in their
THE BODY-SNATCHERS. 75
everyday clothes, or in such clothes as were selected for
roughing it. There was immense variety in the matter
of hats. Belts were a feature. The flannel shirt, which
was practically de rigiieur, was replaced in an instance
or two by a jersey. Collars were not worn ; neckties
were optional. There was no fixed fashion in the matter
of boots ; they varied from canvas shoes, worthy of a
dandy at the seaside, to top boots fit for a buccaneer.
As to the men themselves, they were of all ages,
heights, shapes, and sizes — the men of a crowd. Some
were sunburned, and some were pale. Some were indif-
ferent, but most were eager. Some were disposed to
assume a serious military bearing, while others appeared
to regard the venture as a silly joke of which they were
beginning to be a little ashamed.
There is no doubt that the corps was in appearance
not impressive. They were wild and shabby looking,
disordered, unsymmetrical, and bizarre. They were
scoffed at ; and acquired the not unkindly meant title of
the " body-snatchers." Later on the exuberant invention
of the soldier dignified them by the titles of the " catch-
'em-alive-oh's " or the "pick-me-ups."
It is needless to say that a good number of unsuitable
and undesirable men had found their way into the ranks.
These were gradually weeded out, and under the discreet
command of Major Wright the corps improved day by
day, until the time Spearman's was reached they formed
a very efficient, reliable, and handy body of men. They
did splendid service, and one which was keenly appre-
ciated. They were the means of saving many lives and
76 THE BODY-SNATOHERS.
an infinite amount of pain. Their longest tramp, of which
I had knowledge, was from Spearman's to Frere, a distance
of twenty-five miles. They showed the usual British in-
difference under fire, and went without hesitancy wherever
they were led. Unfortunately it happened that many
of the worthy " body-snatchers " were wounded, and not
a few of them were killed.
In the early days of their career the " catch-'em-alive-
oh's" fell upon bad times. They knew little of camp
life, and less of the art of getting the most out of it. They
had no organisation among themselves, and many were
incompetent to shift alone. They began as a mob, and
they tried to live as a mob, and the result was that about
the time of Colenso they had little comfort but that which
is said by the moralist to be derived from labour. In
their camp after the battle they had time to settle down.
They entered the camp a thriftless crowd, and came out
of it a company of handy men.
They were popular with the soldiers. They had the
gift of tongues of a kind, and could compete with most
in the matter of lurid language. Their incessant hunger
and indiscriminate thirst were a matter for admiration.
They were good-hearted, and, although they looked wild,
they meant well. Many a wounded man has been rocked
to sleep on their stretchers, and on more than one dying
ear the last sound that fell was the tramp of their un-
SEEING THEM OFF.
N the afternoon of Thursday, February
8th, the news came to the hospital at
Spearman's that the army was once more
to retire, and signs were already abroad
to show that the retreat had commenced.
At the same time an order arrived to
the effect that all the wounded were to
be moved at sunrise, on the following day, to Frere. Our
stay at Spearman's — extended now to three weeks — had
therefore come to an end.
Among those left in the hospital were 150 patients
whose condition was more or less serious. They had been
kept under care as long as possible in order to avoid or
postpone the danger of the long journey to the base. It
was determined that these 150 men should be carried
down to Frere on stretchers and by hand. And this was
done, and well done, by the much -ridiculed corps of
It was no light undertaking, for the distance was twenty-
five miles, and the road was dusty and not of the best.
Every step had to be tramped under a glaring sun, and
the heat of that day was great. Allowing twelve men
to a stretcher, 1,800 men would be required. This
78 SEEING TEEM OFF.
number was forthcoming at sunrise, and they accom-
plished the march in the day, reaching Frere at sundown.
This was a splendid piece of work.
It is not hard to surmise what would have happened
to many of those who were the most ill if their journey
to Frere had been by the ox-waggon, or by the still less
easy ambulance. As it was, the whole convoy went down
with comfort, and only one man died on the way, and
he had indeed just reached his journey's end when his
life ebbed away.
Long before sunrise on the morning of the departure
from Spearman's the hospital was astir ; and while it
was yet dark lights could be seen in most of the tents,
and lanterns carried by orderlies or coolies were moving
here and there among the grey lines. The two white
lights which hung from the flag-pole in front of the
hospital were still shining. By the time the shadows
had vanished and the light of the dawn fell upon " No.
4," it was in a state of untidy turmoil. Everyone was
on the alert to "see them off."
In the marquees the last dressings were being carried
out by candle-light. Clothes were being got together;
helpless men were being dressed ; blankets were being
rolled up, and such comforts as the hospital could provide
were being packed for the wounded to take with them
on their journey. Cherished possessions were being-
dragged out from under pillows, to be safely disposed
in a haversack or a boot. The grey light fell upon
orderlies in their shirt-sleeves bustling from tent to tent ;
upon piles of provision cases and of forage which were
SEEING THEM OFF. 79
being turned out ; upon heaps of stretchers ; upon the
rolled-up kit of the Army Medical Corps men ; upon
melancholy coolies who had been up all night, and were
still crawling about, and were still in their night attire.
This night outfit would consist, probably, of a turban, a
mealie sack round the neck, and a decayed army mackin-
tosh on the body ; or of a turban, a frock-coat, which
might at one time have graced Bond Street, and bare legs.
Here and there in the indistinct light would be seen the
white apron and trim dress of a nurse, who still carried
the lantern she had had with her since the small hours
of the morning. All were anxious to be up in time to
"see them off."
In due course, and even yet before the sun could be
seen, the Volunteer Ambulance Corps began to form up
outside the camp. They were nearly two thousand strong,
and they were a wild-looking company. There was, how-
ever, more uniformity in their clothing now, because they
had been supplied with khaki tunics, and with occasional
khaki trousers. Some wore putties, some gaiters, and
some had tucked their trousers inside their socks. A few
had cut their trousers off about the knee and were dis-
tinguished by bare legs. A gaiter on one leg and a puttie
on the other was not considered to be in any way demode.
Their hats were still very varied, but many had possessed
themselves of helmets which had been picked up on the
field. Uniformity and smartness could, however, not be
expected if one man wore a helmet and the next a tam-
o'-shanter, the third a bowler hat, and the fourth a
" squasher " or a headpiece of his own designing. They
SO .SEEING THEM OFF.
had red-cross brassards on their left arms, but these had
become merely fluttering bits of colouring.
This weird corps carried their possessions with them,
and it was evident that in transporting their impedi-
menta they had appreciated the value of the division of
labour. Many had military water-bottles, which they had
probably picked up. Others carried their water in glass
bottles, which dangled from their waists. Hanging about
their bodies by strings or straps would be various useful
domestic articles. Attached to one man would be a
bundle of firewood, to another a saucepan, to a third a
kettle and a lantern. Here a man would have in the
place of a sabre- tache a biscuit tin suspended by a cord,
or a hatchet and a tin-opener, or a spare pair of boots,
which swung bravely as he marched. A popular vade
mecwm was an empty jam tin (much blackened by the
smoke of the camp fire) with a wire handle, and evidence
that it represented a cooking-pot. Belts, knives, sticks,
overcoats, rolled-up mackintoshes, and a general tint of
sunburn and dirt completed the uniform of this strange
Before they entered the camp the wounded had been
brought out on stretchers. The stretchers were placed
on the grass, side by side, in long rows which extended
across the breadth of the hospital. The men lying on
them were not pleasant to look at. They formed a
melancholy array of " bad cases." Each man was covered
by a brown blanket, and within the hood of the stretcher
were his special belongings, his boots and his haversack,
and, with them, such delicacies for the journey as a pot
SEEING THEM OFF. 81
of jam, a chunk of bread, some biscuits, a lump of tinned
meat in a newspaper, and bottles (mostly with paper
corks) containing water or milk or tea. Those on the
stretchers presented bandaged legs and bandaged arms,
splints of all kinds, covered-up eyes and bound-up heads,
and the general paraphernalia of an accident ward. Some
of the faces were very pinched and pale, for pain and
loss of blood and exhaustion had caused the sunburn to
The light of the dawn fell upon this woe-begone line,
and dazzled the eyes of many with the unaccustomed
<?lare. Those who were not too ill were in excellent
spirits, for this was the first step on the journey home-
wards. Such were excited, garrulous and jocular, and
busy with pipes and tobacco. A few were already weary,
and had on their lips the oft-repeated expression that
" they were fed up with the war." Many a head was
lifted out of the hood to see if any old chum could be
recognised along the line, and from those would come
such exclamations as : " Why are you here, Tom ? "
" Where have you got hit ? " " Ain't this a real bean-
feast ? " " Thought you were stiff.'"' " We're on the
blooming move at last,"
Many of the men on the stretchers were delirious, and
some were almost unmanageable. One poor fellow was
babbling about the harvest and the time they were having.
He was evidently in his dream once more among the
cornfields of England, and among plenteous beer. Another
shook the canvas hood of his stretcher and declared with
vehemence that he " would not go in an}* - bally sailing
SEEING THEM OFF.
boat, he was going in a steamer, and the colonel would
never let his men go in a rotten sailing ship." Whereupon
he affirmed that " he was going to chuck it," and pro-
ceeded to effect his purpose by rolling oft' his stretcher.
When the Volunteer Ambulance Corps marched along
the line of stretchers they were the subject of much chaff,
and many comments such as these burst forth : " You're
being paraded before the General. So buck up ! " " Pull
up yer socks." " You with the kettle ! Do you take
yourself for a gipsy van ? " " We ain't buying no hard-
ware to-day — go home." " You know there's a Government
handicap on this job and half-a-crown to the man who
gets in first, so you had better hurry my stretcher along."
And so on ; in the dialect of London, of Dublin, of
Lancashire, and of Devon, with infinite variety and with
apparent good spirits.
There were many anxious cases among this crowd on
the stretchers. One, for example, was an Irishman named
Kelly, a private in the Lancashire Fusiliers. He was as
plucky a soldier as the plucky soil of Ireland has ever
produced. His right arm had been smashed on Spion
Kop. He had been on the hill two nights ; and when
the darkness fell had spent his time in crawling about
on the ground, holding the sleeve of his shattered arm
between his teeth, dragging his rifle with his left hand, and
searching the bodies of the dead for any water that may
have been left in their water-bottles. He had lost an
incredible amount of blood, and when he reached the
hospital it was necessary to amputate the whole upper
limb, including the shoulder-blade and collar-bona He
SEEING TffVM OFF. 83
went through this ordeal with infinite courage and with
irrepressible good humour. He had been the strong man
of his regiment and a great boxer, and, as he casually
said, " He should miss his arm."
Kelly's spirits were never damped, and he joked on
all topics whenever he had the strength to joke. He
was a little difficult to manage, but was as docile as a
lamb in the hands of the Sister who looked after him,
and for whom he had a deep veneration. Nothing in
the ordinary way upset this gallant Irishman, but just
before the convoy started he did for once break down.
Two bottles of English beer had found their way into
the camp as a precious gift. Kelly was promised these
bottles to take with him on his journey. In due course
they were deposited in the hood of his stretcher. When
his eyes fell upon the delectable vision of English beer
he could stand no more, and Kelly wept.
I little thought when I saw Kelly off at Spearman's
that the next time I should say good-bye to him would
be in a hansom cab in Pall Mall; but so it was.
When all was ready the stretchers were lifted off
the ground in order, and the bearers filed out of the
camp and on to the dusty track. The morning was
like that of a summer's day in England, and Ave
watched the long convoy creep along the road until it
was nearly out of sight. The perfect quiet of their de-
parture was only broken by the oft-repeated boom of
the naval gun on the hill.
A FUNERAL AT SPEARMAN S.
HERE were many deaths at Spearman's,
and the burying ground was under the
shadow of the clump of trees which
stood at the back of Spearman's Farm,
and of which burying place I have already
spoken. Those who died were carried
away to the mortuary tent, and there
each body was sewn up by the coolies in the brown army
blanket or in a sheet. The sewing was after the manner of
the sewing up of a package. The brown blanket, how-
ever, formed but a poor covering at the last, and it made
little mystery of what it shrouded. Beneath its tightly-
drawn folds there was shadowed something that was
still a man, for was there not the clear outline of head
and chin and shoulders and feet ? When the body was
ready it was brought out of the tent, placed upon
a stretcher, and carried to the grave. Over the
bodies of the officers was thrown the Union Jack, but
the bodies of the soldiers were covered only by the
brown blanket or the sheet.
There was one funeral which I have in mind, on
the occasion of which eight were buried — eight who had
been struck down on Spion Kop — four non-commissioned
officers and four men.
A /• ' /,' ,\7<; UAL AT 8 1 ' E I / I 1/ A .V " 8.
The funeral party drew up near to the mortuary-
tent, and halted there in precise military formation.
There was the firing party, who went first, with inverted
rifles ; then came the bearers, and then a small company
from the regiments of the dead.
Some little way off stood a cluster of men who had
come, in a shy, apologetic sort of way, to see the last of
their pals. They seemed to think that their presence
near by the formal procession was an intrusion, and
they huddled together, some ten of them, at a distance.
From their attitudes one inferred that they did not
wish to be considered as taking any part in the funeral.
They were pretending to be merely onlookers. They
were restless, and disposed to shuffle with their feet, or
they kicked the earth up absently with the toes of their
Some of the ten kept their eyes fixed upon the
mortuary- tent, to watch the bodies come out. As each
of the blanket-covered objects was brought from the
tent into the sunlight there were murmured comments
from this small knot of untidy men — these men who
did not want to look like mourners, but who were
mourners indeed. " That's surely Ginger," says one of
the number, pointing to the body last brought out.
" No, that ain't Ginger," says his companion. " Ginger
never had a chest on him like that. That's more like
Jimmy Evans. Jimmy held hisself like that often."
So they talked, and they kept up fairly well this
pretence at a casual conversation. But some could not
trust themselves to speak and these kept their backs to
86 A FUNERAL AT SPEARMAN'S.
the tent and kicked at the earth absently. Those who
took part in the apparent nonchalant talk had a
struggle, I think, to keep their voices from breaking and
their eyes from becoming dim. The " things " they were
bringing out of the tent, done up in blankets, had once
been men, who had, perhaps, enlisted with them, who
probably hailed from the same town in the Old Country,
and who were the subjects of many memories.
When all the bodies were ready and the stretchers
in line, the procession started, and marched slowly and
silently round the kopje and along the glade that led
to the trees by Spearman's Farm.
But for the tents of a far-off camp the veldt was a
desert. There was scarcely a human being in sight.
There was none of the pomp of a soldier's burial ; no
funeral march ; no awed crowd ; no tolling of bells ;
no group of weeping women in black clothes ; no
coffin borne on a gun-carriage and distinguished by the
helmet and accoutrements of the dead. There were only
the eight bundles in the brown blankets on the eight
stretchers. And some little way in the rear were the
slouching company of the ten, who did not want to be
regarded as mourners, and who, with occasional " sniffing,"
and perhaps a surreptitious wiping of eyes with a shirt
cuff, were shuffling along with a poor affectation of in-
In due course the last resting-place is reached, and
here are eight separate graves in a line, and at the head
of them stands the chaplain. He has on a college cap,
a white surplice, riding breeches and putties. He reads
A FUNRBAL AT BPEABMM y "
the service with the utmost impressiveness. The men
who form the firing party and the escort are ranged
round the place of burial in precise military lines, and,
in spite of the blazing sun, every head is bared. The
words of the chaplain alone break the silence, although
now and then there comes across the plain the boom of
the naval gun. And here, under the dazzling sky of
Africa, and at the foot of a kopje on the veldt, the
eight dead are laid in the ground.
There are no onlookers except myself and the little
group of the ten. They stand in a cluster at a respect-
ful distance. Their heads are bare, and more than one
man has hidden his face in his helmet, while others
have turned their heads away so that their mates shall
not see their eyes. Their pretence at indifference and
at having been drawn to the funeral by mere curiosity
is now of the very slenderest.
As the graves are being filled up the funeral party
marches back to the camp with a brisk step. The
slovenly ten, Avho are not taking the part of mourners,
scatter. They wander off in twos and threes, and they
have become curiously silent. Some have dragged out
pipes from their pockets, and are filling them absently.
One is whistling an incoherent fragment of a tune.
They look towards the horizon, and perhaps see nothing
but the barren veldt, or perhaps they see a familiar
village in England, and within a cottage in the small
street the figure of a woman with her face buried in her
Y small experience of the British soldier
in the field leads me to think that he
does not altogether deserve the title of
the " absent - minded." The average
soldier has, I think, the most anxious
regard for his belongings, and although
that anxiety may have been obscured
or even dissipated by the boisterous incidents which at-
tend an embarkation for the Cape, still when he reaches
camp his mind is much occupied with recollections of
the people at home, and with concern for their well-
Among the wounded were alwa}^s those whose first
anxiety was as to the effect the news of their injuries
would have upon mothers, sweethearts, or wives. And
many a message of consolation was confided to the
sympathising ears of the Sisters, and many a letter of
assurance was laboriously written by those who had the
strength to write.
In the matter of letters the soldier takes profound
interest. He writes whenever he has the chance, and
makes a great deal of fuss about the performance. To
most of those in camp the posting of a letter ho;ne is
A BSENT- MIND E D \ E
an event, and so precious is the pencilled epistle, that
the writer will hesitate before he commits it to the
casual sack which is tied up to the fly of the post-office
tent, and which appears scarcely formal or official
enough to receive the dirt- stained despatch. For such
despatches, nothing less pretentious than a post-office
building or an iron letter-box seem fitting.
Many a time have I seen a letter dropped into the
sack with such an expression of insecurity, and such
evident feeling of hopelessness as to its safe conduct,
that the writer of the same has appeared to regret that
he had parted with it. A post-office official in his shirt-
sleeves, with a pipe in his mouth and a helmet on the
back of his head, seems hardly to be responsible enough
for the occasion ; and if the letter- writer would venture
to express a hope that his elaborately directed letter
" would be all right," the post-office deity is apt to
regard this concern with flippancy. "There's the sack!
Chuck the blooming thing in. It won't break," was
about all the comfort he would get.
The receipt of letters from home, also, was attended
with an eagerness which was hardly fitting in an absent-
minded man. The sergeant with the bundle of letters
would read out the names on the envelopes in a military
voice, ferociously and without feeling, and each man
who got a missive grabbed it and marched off with it
with the alacrity of a dog who has got a bone. If he
could find the shelter of a waggon where the letter
could be read unobserved it was well.
The letters dictated to the Sisters in the hospital
9<> A BS ENT-MINDEDNM8S.
were apt to be a little formal. It seemed to be thought
proper that expression should be curbed, and that the
sensibilities of the Sister should be in no way shocked
by the revelation of a love passage. One dying man, who
was dictating a letter to his mother, thought he would
like to send with it a last message to " his girl," and in
answer to the Sister's inquiry as to what she should
write, modestly said, " Give her my kind regards."
There need have been no precise decorum in the
wording of these last hopeless utterances, for if the sender
of the letter " sniffed " a little, as he dictated the message,
the Sisters cried over them.
When a wounded man came to be stripped it was
common to find some precious keepsake or some secret
package hung about his neck, and to which he clung
with the earnestness of a worshipper to his fetish. One
man, particularly, was much more anxious about a locket
that hung on his hairy chest than he was about his wound.
He seemed to think that so long as the cheap little
trinket was not lost his life mattered little. In the
operation-tent he was reluctant to take chloroform until
a solemn promise had been given that no harm should
befall his locket, and that it should not be removed from
his neck. I am afraid that the history of the locket ends
here, for the loyal man died.
Among the wounded brought in one day from Pot-
gieter's Drift was a man of scanty clothing, who held
something in his closed hand. He had kept this treasure
in his hand for some eight hours. He showed it to the
Sister. It was a ring. In explanation he said, " My girl
gave me this ring, and when I was hit I made up my
mind that the Boers should never get it, so I have kept it
in my fist, ready to swallow it if I was taken before our
stretchers could reach me."
AT CHIEVELEY AGAIN.
N Sunday, February 11th, No. 4 Field
Hospital once more reached Chieveley,
after the tedious march from Spearman's
of which mention has been made. The
hospital was pitched near the station,
and not far from the spot it had occupied
on the day of the battle of Colenso.
Chieveley is represented only by a railway station and a
station-master's house. There are, however, many euca-
lyptus trees about these buildings, and the spot is shady.
The ground stands high, and miles of undulating country
are open to view. There are a Kaffir kraal or two in
sight, and many mimosa groves, and beyond them all
the line of the river. Chieveley, therefore, as a camp, was
The sojourn at Chieveley began with that terrible
fourteen days of incessant fighting which ended in the
taking of Pieters and the relief of Ladysmith. Every day
at sunrise the guns began, and it was not until sunset
that they ceased. Any who looked up from their work
in the camp, and turned their eyes towards Umbulwana,
would seldom fail to see the flash of a lyddite shell on
the far-off ridges, or, clear against the blue sky, the white
A BRIGADE MARCHING OUT AT CHIEVELEY
FOR THE ATTACK UPON PIETERS. PASSING
THE FIELD HOSPITAL.
Face p. 92.
AT GHIEVELEY AGAIN. 93
puff of cloud from a shrapnel. Every day the wounded
came in, mostly towards evening. Fortunately their
numbers were few.
The days had again become very hot and very trying.
It was weather which the soldier is apt to describe, in the
vivid language of his kind, as weather "when a man should
have his body in a pool and his head in a public-house ! "
Standing in the station at Chieveley was commonly to
be seen the armoured train. Whatever iron plates could
do to make a structure indestructible had been done ; but
to such beauty as a railway train may possess nothing had
thereby been added. The sailors had, however, been busy
with the engine of the train. The engineers had given
it the outline of a square gasometer, but the " handy
man " had covered the disfigured machine with ropes as
with a garment. From the top of the funnel a veil of
closely placed ropes trailed to the ground. A like panoply
of ropes covered the body of the engine, and its wheels,
and its cylinders, and its every detail. The officers called
this production the " Russian poodle," but the soldiers
gave it the name of " Hairy Mary " ; and this name
clung to it.
During the movement to Spearman's, Chieveley had
been carefully fortified. A space round the station had
been marked off by a very deep wire entanglement.
Trenches had been dug, and some sort of a fort thrown
up. There were entrenchments about the station-master's
mild little house, and before the windows were erected
iron plates with loopholes such as were used on the
trucks of the armoured train. Similar iron plates formed
94 AT CBIEVELEY AGAIN.
a barricade along the modest verandah, and the result
of it all was that the small unobtrusive house was made
to look fierce and truculent. The few bare rooms were
used by the Headquarters Staff, and the rough tables
and stools were littered with all sorts of war-like para-
phernalia. Among these insignia of battle, murder, and
sudden death were two strange objects which had been
left behind by the looting Boers, and which seemed out
of place. One was a stuffed jay, and the other a dress-
maker's lay-figure or "bust." The bird was stuck upon
the wreck of the mantelpiece and stared amiably and
foolishly from its perch. The "bust" was life-size, and
suggested the torso of a black woman, with a little
polished knob for a head. It may have at one time
graced the salon of a Parisian dressmaker. It was, how-
ever, now no longer used to show off dresses, trimmings
and flounces, for a helmet surmounted the graceful chest,
and belts, carrying pistols and swords, hung from the fine
shoulders or clung to the delicate waist.
'HAIRY MARY" AT CHIEVELEY.
Fare p. 9-t
A JOURNEY TO LADYSMITII.
ENERAL BULLER reached Ladysmith on
March 1st, and on Friday, March 2nd,
I had the good fortune to enter the
town. The journey was not accom-
plished without difficulty. It was neces-
sary to follow the road the army had
taken, as the main road was not known
to be free from the enemy, and moreover, the bridge
leading to it had been blown up. The distance from
Chieveley to Ladj^smith by the route taken was between
twenty-three and twenty-four miles. I took my covered
cart (called in the camp the " 'bus "), with ten mules and
two Kaffir " boys." A man rode in front to pick out
the road. With me came my remaining nurse, Miss
McCaul, and Mr. Day, an army chaplain. We took pro-
visions, water, and forage for two days.
We left Chieveley at 6.30 a.m., and the first part of
the journey was across the battlefield of Colenso. The
road then became very rough, ran over ridges and down
into dongas, over boulders and deep into ruts, so that
the mules would now be at a fair trot and now dragged
to a standstill. Ac last we reached the hill commanding
96 A JOVBNEY TO LAJDYSMITB.
the pontoon bridge over the Tugela. At the top of this
precipitous height was the mighty convoy of ox- waggons
with food for Ladysrnith. The waggons could be counted
by hundreds and the cattle by thousands. The hubbub
could not be surpassed. The lowing of the oxen, the
shrieking of the Kaffir " boys," the bellowed orders of
the convoy conductors, the groaning of colliding
waggons, made a compound of sound worthy of the
occasion. Among the rabble would be seen ambulance
waggons, water carts, isolated gun carriages and ammu-
nition waggons, bread carts, mounted officers hurrying
through, weary pickets returning to camp, and a few
" Tommies " tramping along with a cheery indifference
to the restless, struggling crowd.
The actual road above the pontoon was the very
steepest declivity I have ever seen negotiated by struc-
tures on wheels. The 'bus (empty of all occupants) slid
unsteadily down the incline, rocking like a ship in a
troubled sea, and the mules had to put on their best
pace to keep clear of the onrushing wheels.
The river at the point of crossing is extremely pic-
turesque. The steep rugged banks are rendered beautiful
by mimosa and cactus, and below the pontoons the
torrent breaks into foaming rapids, while up-stream is
the celebrated waterfall of the Tugela. From the river
the road wound on to the foot of Umbnlwana. It ran
across plains and down into valleys, and over spruits and
across boulders, and through mimosa groves and over dusty
wastes. A river at the foot of the great hill was forded,
and as the mules were nearly carried off their feet, and
A JOURNEY TO LADY SMITH. 97
the waggon was flooded with the stream, we were glad
to land on the opposite bank.
The Boer camps through which the road led showed
every evidence of a hurried departure. The cooking pots
were still on the camp fires ; the rude shelters under
which our hardy enemy had lived were still intact. The
ground was strewed with refuse, with the remains of the
last meal, with discarded articles of clothing, with empty
bottles and barrels, with fragments of chairs and tables,
with empty flour sacks, and, above all, with the straw,
which is a feature of a Boer settlement. There Avere no
tents. The shelters were made of boughs, of beams of
wood from adjacent farms, of iron railings, of barbed
wire, of plates of corrugated iron, of casual patches of
canvas, and of old sacks. In some of the trenches the
shelters were more elaborate, and varied from an almost
shot-proof retreat to a simple tent, made out of two raw
cow skins stretched over bamboos.
These wild camps, amid a still wilder country, sug-
gested the conventional "brigand's retreat." The only
evidences of a gentler mood were provided by a dis-
carded concertina and by a letter I picked up on the
roadside. The letter was from a Boer wife at the home
farm to her husband in the trenches. As we passed
along the road we met with many evidences of a hurried
flight. The dead horses were very numerous ; and left by
the roadside, with traces cut, were carts, light spider-carts,
water carts, waggons, and such cumbrous impedimenta as
wheelbarrows and a smith's forge. One waggon had fallen
headlong into a donga in the dark, and was an utter wreck.
98 A JOURNEY TO LADYSMITH.
At last, on mounting the summit of a little ridge, we
saw before us a wide green plain of waving grass, and
beyond the plain and under the shelter of purple hills lay
the unhappy town of Lady smith. Ladysmith looks very
pretty at the distance — a cluster of white and red roofs
dotted about among trees, and surmounted by the white
tower of the Town Hall.
The military camps were placed at various points
about the town. The first of these camps was that of the
gallant King's Royal Rifles. They had made some sort
of home for themselves on the side of a barren and stony
hill. They had, of course, no tents, but had fashioned
fantastic shelters out of stone and wood and wire. They
had even burrowed into the ground, and had returned to
the type of habitation common to primeval man. Among
the huts and burrows were many paths worn smooth by
the restless tread of weary feet. The path the most worn
of all was that which led to the water tanks.
The men themselves were piteous to see. They were
thin and hollow-eyed, and had about them an air of
utter lassitude and weariness. Some were greatly
emaciated, nearly all were pale, nearly all were silent.
They had exhausted every topic of conversation, it would
seem, and were too feeble to discuss even their relief.
Ladysmith was reached at 2.30 p.m., and the food
convoy did not arrive until late the same evening, so
we had the sad opportunity of seeing Ladysmith still
unrelieved — unrelieved so far as the misery of hunger
was concerned. I had no food at my disposal, but 1
had fortunately a good quantity ol tobacco, which was
.1 JOURNEY TO LADY8MITH. W
doled out in pipefuls so long as the supply lasted. It
would have taken many pounds, however, to satisfy the
eager, wasted, trembling hands which were thrust fOr-
ward on the chance of getting a fragment of the weed.
The town is composed almost entirely of single-
storey houses built of corrugated iron, with occasional
walls of brick or cement. In the suburbs of the town
these houses are made as villa-like as possible by
means of verandahs and flower gardens and creepers.
The main street of the town, however, has no preten-
sions to beauty, and is merely a broad road with corru-
gated iron shops on either side.
On walking into " Starvation City " one's first im-
pression was that of the utter emptiness of the place.
Most of the villas were unoccupied, were closed up, and,
indeed, barricaded. The gardens were neglected, and
everything had run wild. The impression of desolation
was accentuated by an occasional house with a hole in
its roof or its wall due to a Boer shell. All the people
we met were pallid and hollow-eyed, and many were
wasted. All were silent, listless, and depressed. There
were no evidences of rejoicing, no signs of interest or
animation, and, indeed, as I have just said, Ladysmith
was still unrelieved. Nearly every shop was closed or
even barricaded. Sign-boards showed that here was a
coach-builder, and there a grocer. The chemist's shop
appeared to be empty of everything except the coloured
water in the large bottles in the window. Such shops
as were open were dark and desolate.
There were many grim evidences of better days.
100 A JOURNEY TO LADYSMITH.
Thus one restaurant presented, among other cheery
signs, the announcement of " Meals at all hours."
Another establishment was gay with placards of " Ice
creams." Notices of groceries of all kinds for sale made
radiant a shop which was empty of everything but a
table and some rough chairs.
Such was the aspect of the weary town. Streets
empty of all but a few tired and listless men, stores
without goods, shops without customers, a railway station
without passengers, a post-office without letters, stamps,
or post-cards. No words, indeed, can fully describe this
city of desolation, this little colony of the almost hope-
less, this poor, battered, worn-out, hungry town of
Ladysmith, with a bright summer sun making mockery
of its dismal streets.
The wretchedness of the place was not mitigated by
the horrible smells which greeted one at every corner,
nor by the miserable, dirty river which crawled slimily
through the place.
We left the town about 5 p.m., and met on our way
back the long convoy of waggons with food. It was
dark when we reached the river by Umbulwana; and as
it was dangerous, and, indeed, impossible to cross the
drift except in daylight, Ave outspanned by the river
bank, and made a pretence of sleeping.
When yet it was dark on the following morning the
mules were put in, and with the earliest streak of dawn
we crossed the river and made for Colenso. The waggons
were still toiling onwards towards Ladysmith.
The road, as I have said, was very rough, and the
A JOURNEY TO LADYSMITH. 101
poor cart, which had served me well for three months,
began to show signs of giving out. It broke down at
last, one of the wheels coming to pieces. We were then
some seven miles from Colenso, and the vehicle was
beyond all repair. So it was left by the roadside
among other wreckage, a forlorn relic of what was once
a smart " 'bus." Our very scanty luggage was packed
upon the mules' backs, our remaining food was dis-
tributed among the passers-by, and we proceeded to
walk to Colenso. From Colenso we travelled to Chieveley
by a casual goods train, sitting on the floor of an open
truck, as there was no guard's van. We reached
Chieveley on Saturday at 1 p.m., tired and dirty.
HE photograph which is appended to this
paragraph was taken during the course
of our journey to Ladysroith. The scene
is on the north bank of the Great Tugela
below the waterfall, and close to the
pontoon bridge by^which the troops had
crossed on their victorious march. Sitting
in the sun on a pile of timbers, which the engineers
have left, is a typical straggler. His company has moved
on to Pieters, and he has fallen out somehow and some-
where on the march, and is following the lost column
as best he can.
The day is hot, and his jacket is thrown across his
shoulders. A small cloud of flies buzz over him. He
is tired, dirty, thirsty, and hungry. Fever has taken
hold of him, and he is — as he would say — feeling " a
bit thick" He is sitting by the river bank to await
the first waggon across the pontoon on which a conductor
will give him a lift. In the meantime some good
Samaritan is getting him a drink of water from the
Face p. 02.
HOW \ SURGEON WON THE VICTORIA CROSS.
N December 15th was fought the battle of
Colenso, on the morning of a brilliant
summer's day. At dawn the men had
marched out eagerly and in keen spirits,
and with a swing of the shoulders which
told of a certain victory. Before sundown
they were beaten back, more than a
thousand dead and wounded were lying on the field, the
hospital tents were crammed to overflowing, and the
waggons, which were prepared to move forwards, were
The small hamlet of Colenso, battered, empty, and
woe-begone, stands on the south bank of the river, and
clings about the railway as a homely, unpretending little
settlement made up of a few corrugated iron cottages
on either side of a single street.
It looks almost like a toy village, and its prim formality
is tempered by a friendly growth of cactus, aloes, and
mimosa, by a few trees and by many gardens. Behind
Colenso is the veldt, which here extends southwards as
a vast undulating plain to Chieveley, Frere, and Estcourt.
Between Chieveley and the river the veldt is smooth,
and is broken only by ant-hills, by a few Kaffir kraals, and
L04 HOW A SURGEON WON THE VICTORIA CROSS.
by the precise line of the railway. The plain is green, but it
is not the luxuriant green of England, and in the early morn-
ing and about the time of the setting sun, tints of yellow
and brown and pink spread over the wold and render the
place strangely beautiful.
During the glare of noonday the veldt gives simply
a blinding sense of scorched and faded green, and its
monotony and its boundlessness and the utter lack of
shade and variation make the expanse dreary as a desert.
Beyond the village the brown torrent of the great
Tugela tears seawards between high banks and under
broken bridges, and among the debris of pitiless ruin.
Across the river are the bare, stony, trench-lined kopjes
and hills held for so many long weeks by the Boers.
About the foot of these bastion-like ridges is the squalor
of a neglected camp, and on all sides are rifle pits and
trenches and stone shelters and hidden holes. Man
seems on this river bank to have gone back to the
savagery of the cave dweller, and to be once more crawl-
ing on the earth. Beyond these low hills are the grey
heights of Umbulwana towering over Lad3'smith.
It was to the right of Colenso that the battle raged
fiercest on December 15th, 1899. It was here that
Colonel Long's batteries of field artillery were surprised
by the enemy and were abandoned after a hideous
sacrifice of horses and men. It was here that Lieutenant
Roberts received his fatal wound, and it was here that
Babtie won the Victoria Cross.
The batteries were moving towards the river with
the usual British unconcern, and in the quiet of a
THE BATTLEFIELD OF COLENSO.
In the foreground is the body of one of Col. Long's
horses. To the right is the Mimosa Croue in which
the Boers hid. The flat-topped hill to the left is
Face p. 104
fftfll I SURGEON WON TBE VICTORIA CROSS. 105
summer's morning. Suddenly there was poured upon
them from the shelter of a mimosa wood such a torrent
of lead that in a few moments there was scarcely a horse
or a man standing. The men faced the wood as only
the British soldier can face death. The gallant attempts
made to save the guns led only to further loss of life.
Colonel Long had been shot down, some fifty horses had
been sacrificed, and the scanty ranks of the English were
thinning rapidly. Still the cry went up, " Hold fast to
the guns!" and when the last forlorn hope had been
attempted and had failed, the green veldt was littered
with the wounded, the dying, and the dead.
Near by the guns was a donga, and into this many
of the wounded had crawled. The galloper who took up
the news of the disaster reported the need of help for
the injured. To this call Major Babtie, R.A.M.C., at
once responded as a volunteer. His duty did not take
him to the battlefield. He rode down to this Inferno.
He might as well have ridden before a row of targets
during the smartest moment of rifle practice. Three
times was his horse shot under him before he reached
the donga. Here, in the face of a galling fire, he dragged
the wounded into shelter, and a little later he ventured
out under a rain of lead to bring in Lieutenant Roberts,
who was lying in the open desperately wounded.
For some seven hours Babtie kept by the wounded
in the shallow donga, no one daring to lift a head above
the edge of the dip. He alone had a water-bottle, and
he doled out what water he had in a 60-minim measure-
big glass. He was also able to relieve pain by morphine,
106 riOW A SURGEON WON THE VICTORIA GROSS.
and when not otherwise occupied he sheltered poor
Roberts's face from the scorching sun by holding above
it a letter he chanced to have in his pocket. It was
not until darkness was setting in that it was possible
to venture from the scant shelter the donga provided.
The scene of this heroic act was a level stretch of
green veldt lying between the river and a brown road
which led with many desultory turns to Hlangwani. To
the left were the village and gardens of Colenso, and to
the right the grove of mimosa trees in which the Boer
force was hidden. Beyond the river rose the enemy's
entrenchments and the grim ridge of Grobler's Kloof.
The last time I passed over this spot was on the
day after our cavalry had reached Ladysmith. It was on
a day of peace. The sky was cloudless and no breath
of air stirred along the grass. The bodies of the horses
belonging to the lost guns were lying in a long line
across the veldt. Their bones were as white as are the
bones of museum skeletons, for the vultures and the
ants had done their work thoroughly. The hides were
still drawn over the bleaching bones, and round the
necks of these ill-fated beasts were still the collars and
the harness by which they had dragged the guns into
action. There was an absolute stillness over the whole
scene. To the left a train was being shunted at
Colenso Station with leisurely persistence, for the day
was hot and the sun dazzling. To the right were the
mimosa groves, glorious with yellow blossom, in the
shadows of which the Boers had hidden. It was
strange that it was from these dainty woods that the
HOW A SURGEON WON THE VICTORIA GROSS. 107
hellish fire had poured forth which laid low so many
gallant English lads, for on this quiet day the trees
were busy with complaining doves.
By the banks of the donga, which had been for a
whole summer's day a valley of the shadow of death,
a Kaffir was crooning over a concertina, from which
came a lazy dirge-like music.
The railway engine, the doves, and the rapt Kaffir
were the sole moving objects in this garden of peace,
and in the blue distance was the ridge of Grobler's
Kloof, no longer belching fire and shell, but standing
out delicately against the tender sky.
No brave deed had ever a gentler setting.
SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI."
HE Glory of the World," as the soldier
sees it, can be understood by most of
us. There is the glory of having served
his Queen and his country, and of having
done his duty like a man. There is,
probably, the glorious memory of some
great charge and of the storming of
some stubborn trench. And there is the home-coming,
made glorious by the ringing of bells and the waving
of flags, by a march through familiar streets and through
shouting and cheering crowds, with the rattle of drums
and fifes, with hurrahs and yells of welcome for the
regiment he loves so well. A home-coming like this is
worth many days of hardship, many a Spion Kop, and
many a dull week in a hospital tent. But it does not
fall to the lot of all.
I remember at Chieveley one morning before breakfast
watching a solitary man approach the hospital lines. He
was as melancholy an object as ever a war has produced.
He was a soldier who had fought at Colenso, at Vaal
Krantz, and before Pieters, and he was now staggering
towards the hospital a ragged, broken-down, khaki-coloured
spectre of a man. He dragged his rifle along with him
"SIG TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDL"
his belt was gone; his helmet was poised at the back
of his head ; his frowsy tunic was thrown over his
shoulders; he was literally black with flies. His clothes
had not been off' for many days, and he had missed the
ambulance, he said, and had walked to the hospital.
How far he had come he could not tell, nor could
anyone gather how he had fared or where he had slept.
All that was evident was that he was wet with dew and
had spent the night in the open. He knew that for
vague hours he had been making his way, with ever
faltering steps and failing eyes, towards the red cross flag
on the crest of the hill. And now he had reached it.
As to why he had come : " Well ! he had a touch of
the dysentery," he said, " and was about played out."
Poor lad ! this was a sorry home-coming at the last.
A squalid ending of a march ; staggering in alone, a
shuffling wreck, without a single comrade, with no fifes
and drums, no cheering crowd, and no proud adoration
of mother or wife. He was helped to a bell tent and
put to bed on a stretcher, and on the stretcher he died ;
and this was the end of his soldiering. Sic transit gloria
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